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Category: Sexual Abuse and Society

Victims of Sexual Abuse in Positions of Power

Whenever we have spoken or written about sexual abuse, we have always talked about victims from our own perspective. We have discussed how the numerous psychological impacts of abuse can disempower victims, causing all sorts of conditions and disorders and as a result of those impacts, victims can make some poor choices in their lives.

However, recently I read an article by our now Presidential Candidate Gemma O’Doherty, a multi-award-winning Irish investigative journalist, in which she wrote about the appalling and endemic sexual abuse of young boys at one of Dublin’s private colleges Terenure College run by the Carmelite order of priests.

Gemma wrote about the sexual abuse that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s and how the young boys turned out by this college, would most likely go on to become captains of industry, top rugby players, political leaders and decision makers for our country.

THE TRUE COST

Some might see the fact that victims of abuse can manage to excel at whatever field they choose, and do not let their abuse hold them back as a positive.  However, I believe that we must acknowledge the damage that abuse does to its victims and be willing to explore what happens if victims do not look at, or deal with their abuse.

The true cost of not understanding exactly how abuse and its impacts are forever ingrained into the personality of an individual is vitally important. We need to be aware that if unaddressed, these impacts will negatively influence the decisions, attitudes and behaviours of victims in whatever role they find themselves in.

If a victim of abuse fears or chooses not to explore their past, they may do whatever it takes to push or ignore their feelings of anger, self-hatred, fear, rejection, and hurt deep down inside, living in a state of permanent denial. These feelings most likely originated from their experience of powerlessness while being abused.

EXTERNAL APPROVAL

With no real sense of self, a victim who has used his/her career to mask or avoid feeling vulnerable may go on to gauge their success or failures by the reaction of those around them. They may become overachievers, obsessive in their need to win or climb to the top. They often place excessively harsh demands on themselves, constantly setting unreachable targets ensuring they will always be disappointed. They will continually strive for perfection that does not exist, regardless of what area of their life they try to achieve it in.

Overachieving in education or a career path can often lead to what is outwardly perceived as success. Victims may misread their unhealthy obsession with power as drive and ambition.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY

If victims rise to positions of power and control they are likely to develop a narcissistic personality. If they do not acknowledge or deal with their past they can develop an inflated sense of entitlement based on the belief that they, and only they can do anything right. It is not uncommon for them to be arrogant, domineering and exploitative. This behaviour conflicts with their excessive need for admiration and makes it difficult to maintain relationships in their private or professional lives. However, the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. So, when it comes to making decisions based on what is good for the people, they will undoubtedly make the wrong choices.

For the most part they are too busy playing the game with their peers and looking for approval from their inner circle. For this reason, they will never be able to understand the plight of the new employee, the unemployed, sick, elderly or minority groups unless they feel they are belonging to one of those groups. It is the groups of people they are currently influenced by that will determine their decisions. They won’t be unduly concerned with the masses but rather with the chosen few that they admire and feel they understand.

They are most likely to pay lip service rather than taking action or making real changes to improve the lives of the people they may represent in whatever position they hold.

Due to the blocking of their own feelings they cannot connect with others pain and suffering. Their focus will be on how to climb higher and how to make connections to improve their lot.

Because of their perceived success, they may question others motivation and resent that in their eyes others have not done enough to better themselves. They may feel that others are lazy or stupid and have no desire to be any better, this leads to resenting that ‘these people’ benefit from their hard work.

DANGERS FOR US ALL

Having a narcissist in a position that influences our lives is dangerous for us all. They are incapable of including emotion in their decisions but instead use logic. These facts or logical conclusions are also skewed, using their own filter which is influenced by their own negative life experience. The fear is that the energy they put into avoiding being triggered emotionally, can ensure they will evade making decisions that serve anyone other than themselves.

WHO IS PULLING OUR STRINGS

When I look at this country and how it is currently being run, alongside examining the disastrous decisions that impact the most vulnerable within our society, like the almost 10,000 homeless, the 400 people left waiting on hospital trolleys (26% increase from last year), coupled with the constant underfunding of support services for abuse victims, I can only conclude that we have a number of individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder in positions of power. No one who has the ability to feel empathy for another individual could stand by and not do something about this country’s current situation.

And not to repeat myself, but the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. We must ask ourselves when terrible decisions are being made that impact all our lives, who has the most to gain from making those decision. What could possibly be behind those decisions if not self-serving greed and ambition.

 

Paula – 24th August 2018

Let’s Tell Our Stories of Abuse

I have spent the best part of my life holding onto this huge secret and if I’m to be completely honest I am not sure if I would have ever spoken out, if it wasn’t forced on me.  When my father abused a grandniece, her bravery along with her mother’s drive is what forced the truth to finally come out.  Before I spoke about the abuse I believed it was over and couldn’t see why visiting something that happened when I was a child would help anyone. In my mind I had no visible scars, so why make a big deal about it.

The Danger of Keeping the Secret

Back then, I didn’t realise that my secrecy around the abuse I suffered had shaped who I became in the world. I was left with feelings of anxiety, defensiveness, depression, self-loathing and self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours. In my eyes it was easier to deny what happened than to destroy the myth of a life I had created. I had built up an image of a large, happy close family that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Whether or not you consciously keep something secret, the keeping and maintaining the secrecy, uses a lot of energy.  I had to eventually face up to my past and make the decision that my energy would be better spent on healing my pain.

I was a mess inside and nothing I did changed that. The anxiety of holding on to the lie was eating me alive. I was trapped in my mind and doing more damage to myself than the abuse ever could.

Time to Speak Out!

With our current Count Me In! Campaign I know a lot of you will be scared at the very thought of sharing your story. However, the campaign does not require you to share details unless you are comfortable doing so.  It also does not require you to go public with your story. No one, other than the politicians will either see or read what you have written and even then, you can make it clear you do not want your name to go public.

This is about you taking your power back. You are in control of this process. You make the decisions on how much you tell, to whom, and what they are allowed to use.

More importantly, it is not your shame or guilt to hold, you have held yourself responsible for far to long. It is now time to place the responsibility for what happened on the person/persons responsible.

Reasons for Telling Your Story

Victims of Abuse

For victims of abuse telling your story as part of a larger group of survivors will be more powerful. Some victims making the brave decision to report their abuse have had an extremely negative and distressing experience with the judicial system. So, we want to encourage you to share your experience so that politicians will understand real people stories making it more difficult for them to ignore our demands. You can mention that you are supporting this campaign because you are a member of a group or that you are alone with this pain.

Within your letter you could include any or all of the following:

  • I feel so bad for something I didn’t do, and I am tired of holding the pain simply because this country refuses to acknowledge the truth.
  • I am unable to access or pay for the necessary supports that would improve my life. Include examples of just how difficult it has been for you to get and pay for support.
  • As a result of being abused I suffer with depression, CPTSD, anger management, disassociation etc.  You can focus on one or more issues.
  • I am still unable to let family and friends know about my past because I am afraid of what they will say, or how they will act towards me.
  • You could talk about relationships and how they get impacted by your experience of abuse.

Family Members of Victims of Abuse

This campaign offers an opportunity for all family members and friends of abuse victims to be involved, we can highlight the fact that support is needed for supporters as we are aware it is not only victims of abuse that suffer.

Family members often feel they do not have the right to ask for help as they were not the ones raped or abused. But that is simply not true. No one escapes the impacts of this crime. It is important that family members access supports to help them understand what they are dealing with and how it is affecting them personally.

Within your letter you could include any or all of the following:

  • You could talk about who you are providing support to and how that affects you emotionally, physical and mentally.
  • If your sibling was abused by a parent how are you dealing with that.
  • If it was your parent who suffered abuse how has that affected you. Their experience of abuse will most definitely have impacted on their parenting.

Secondary Victims of Abuse

There are many secondary victims out there and it is really important that they see this campaign as an opportunity for them to use their voice.  There are family members, mothers of abused and mother of abusers.  Although we are aware there are always exceptions to the rules we are also aware that there is a large number of innocent mothers out there with nowhere to turn.

My mother could not grasp the idea that she was also a victim. She believed she had no right to look for support. This belief was easy for her to maintain as it was supported by societal behaviours and the media.  Everyone focused on her rather than my father, the abuser. She like other non-abusing parents have the added burden of being judged by the world. We would love to have them onboard with us. They could make a substantial contribution to this whole area and bring a deeper understanding for everyone of us.

What a non-abusing parent could include in their letter

  • The reason I am joining this campaign is my child abused someone when he/she was only (add age) old and a child him/herself.
  • Following all the help received we find ourselves ostracised in our community and within our family.  This is borne out of the complete lack of understanding about abuse and the many types of abuse there is. Instead people seem too quick to label my child as a paedophile.
  • Discuss what if any type of support was offered to you the parent.
  • Discuss how other family members have been impacted by the abuse.
  • Talk about how you have personally been impacted by your child’s behaviour.

Telling Your Story Helps Everyone

I am under no illusion that speaking about the abuse you suffered will be easy. Sexual abuse continues to be a subject few can handle, most avoid, and everyone is stuck as to how to respond when someone discloses to them.

For me, it wasn’t until I spoke out about the abuse that I experienced the power of keeping the secret diminishing.  It allowed me to face the negative effects the abuse had on me, most of them I was unaware of.  It also allowed me to see how my silence was protecting the abuser and not me.

I am sure my older children would have no problem describing the pain they experienced in their life due to my smothering them. I believed that my job was to protect them from everything.  I know now I deprived them of their freedom and instilled fear in them.  I also know they witnessed me wanting to end my own life and how really difficult that was for them.

My children, like all children, took responsibility for what was happening around them and probably believed they were lacking in whatever was needed to make me want to be here.  I feel sick about that, but I cannot take it back. I have done everything in my power to reassure them that my thoughts had nothing to do with them. Open and honest conversations is what helped us all to heal.  Telling your story is the only way to rid yourself and those around you or the pain you are carrying.

Speaking out might not be the cure, but let’s face, it if we don’t begin speaking about it how can we expect the world to wake up.  Take comfort in the fact there are so many of us out there.  Discussing sexual abuse can feel awkward, scary and I have no doubt at times it can feel like you are confessing rather than disclosing the facts of a crime.  If it was any other crime we would have no problem telling everyone, we must examine why that is.

The main reason for not telling about abuse is the deep belief that all victims of this crime hold about personal guilt and responsibility for what was done to them. On a logical level we know this is bullshit. However, we are not dealing with logic here what we are dealing with is the embedded belief planted by the abuser.  Speaking out about our abuse can and will create change in the silence that surrounds this crime.  The more of us that speak out, the more difficult it will be to be ignored.

Speaking out will help you shed the shame that is not yours to begin with. It will support and inspire others to do the same.  If our speaking out helps even one victim it is a good thing, it will help them understand they are not alone and there is no need to live in isolation.

Sexual abuse flourishes in secrecy and silence, but together we are growing stronger. Speaking out will help us change the myths held around sexual crimes by society. Myths such as, ‘it’s only really bad sex’, ‘it happened so long ago, why don’t you just move on with your life’, there is nothing to be gained by revisiting the past’.  Remember your words have power, the power to bring about change on a scale that we cannot even imagine. We have an opportunity to finally bring this generational cycle of abuse to an end.

I am asking you to become part of the force that finally puts an end to abuse and send a very strong message that this crime is no longer acceptable. It can be so empowering to transform your experience of abuse into something positive.

The is a great quote by a comedian called Hannah Godsby that sums up what we as survivors of abuse are.

“There is nothing more powerful than a broken woman that has rebuilt herself”

Joyce Kavanagh- 24th June 2018

A Deeper Understanding of Childhood Sexual Abuse is Needed!

You cannot change something if you are unaware of its existence. Awareness of a negative situation, attitude or belief is the first step towards making positive changes.  Our intention is and always has been to help improve the lives of victims of sexual abuse.  To achieve this, we need to help people understand this crime.

Is there a difference between the way men and women view sex and sexual abuse?  Is this difference a contributing factor preventing the necessary supports and laws being put in place to tackle sexual crimes?  Could it be down to a complete lack of understanding of the magnitude of damage that sexual abuse causes for its victims and how the ripple effect impacts us all?

How Bad Does It Have to Get?

We have given this issue a lot of thought and remain completely lost as to why no one other than victims of this crime, seem to realise the necessity and urgency around putting the appropriate laws and supports in place. What can we do to change this? The sheer numbers involved in this crime is horrifying enough, add to that, the fact that it is a worldwide issue.  This should be enough motivation for world leaders to act.  They don’t, and we need to find out why.

It’s like the housing crisis.  We all think the situation is unforgivable and shouldn’t be happening. But there it is, families are suffering, and our leaders do nothing.  What needs to happen for things to change?  How do we help those in positions of power to see, that like the housing crisis immediate action is required? Unless something is done around improving how we currently view and treat sexual abuse crimes, we will all suffer the consequences.

Need for Understanding

We understand that sexual abuse is a very difficult and complex issue. We also know that it requires a willingness to listen to a subject that most would prefer to ignore. But further understanding is needed. Sexual abuse is not simply a sexual act which takes place without consent. It is so much more than that.  It is this very misconception that we believe leads to lack of action in addressing and implementing the necessary changes that are badly needed. This lack of understanding we feel is also present in our court rooms, resulting in poor sentencing for those who commit these sexual crimes. If we are to move forward, we must have open and honest discussions with our legislators.

Delving Deeper

We think part of the problem is that sexual intercourse means something completely different to men and women.  For men, it can appear to be simply a pleasurable physical act. Some men can enjoy the act of sexual intercourse with no emotional attachment to the woman they are with. That is not to imply that sexual intercourse has no emotional meaning for men, it can and does mean much more if it is with someone they love.  However, as the male genitalia is external, the very act of penetration can be perceived that the male is in control and dominant.

For most women, there is an emotional connection before sexual intercourse takes place.  For intercourse to take place it also requires the woman to allow someone to enter her body. This can often be interpreted as the women being submissive.  Allowing someone enter your body appears to be much more emotionally significant to a woman than to a man.

This difference in how sexual intercourse is viewed and experienced by men and women is very important when considering poor sentencing for sexual crimes. We feel that in some cases, judges and men in general don’t see rape the same way women do.  If judges or those who serve on a jury feel that the crime of rape is nothing more than a non-consensual sexual act, then they will pass judgement in ignorance of the impacts on the victim.  The judge may feel sorry for the victim, even empathetic towards her, but no apparent acknowledgement or understanding is shown for the long-term damage of sex crimes and this is itself adding to the suffering of the victim.

Lasting Damage

It is difficult to explain the damage caused to a human being who has been sexually abused.  Words seem inadequate and can hardly capture the sheer magnitude of the damage felt. Speaking from our own experience and listening to other survivors we understand that all sexual crimes leave similar scars.

Our experience of childhood abuse left us devastated. The abuse disrupted our development and increased our likelihood of experiencing other sexual assaults.  We all felt substantial distress and displayed a wide range of psychological symptoms, both short- and long-term.  We felt powerless, ashamed and have struggled to trust others in our lives.

Through our learning of how the abuse affected us we feel confident to say that our childhood experience of sexual abuse was so damaging to our psychological development that it can be compared to a virus. The virus spread to our brain and negatively altered every cell, thought and behaviour. Victims themselves can struggle to understand the level of damage caused by the abuse they experienced. Recovery required a complete reprogramming of all thoughts, feelings and beliefs we picked up throughout our life.

In the short-term, collectively, we exhibited regressive behaviours such as bed-wetting, sleep disturbances, eating problems, asthma, behaviour and/or performance problems at school, and unwillingness/inability to participate in social activities.  Long-term we suffered with anxiety, ill health, depression, anger issues, anxiety attacks, insomnia, and self-destructive behaviours such as excessive use of alcohol and cigarettes.

We each experienced fear and anxiety in response to triggers which popped up without warning. These were simple things like smells, sounds, expressions that reminded us of our abuser or something that was said innocently.  We experienced difficulties forming relationships and indulged in inappropriate sex or avoidance of sex altogether.

We felt anger at our abuser and our mother who failed to protect us. Worse still we felt anger at ourselves for not stopping the abuse.  We felt betrayed and powerless.  We often felt stigmatised by the shame and guilt and internalised responsibility for what happened to us.  We were re-victimized as our self-worth was very low and at times, non-existent. Due to the abuse we felt worthless and abnormal and held a distorted view of sex and love, and we all at different stages in our lives felt suicidal.

Why aren’t we Horrified at the Numbers

It is globally recognised that this is the most under reported crime.  Because of that and the outdated statistics, a gross underestimation of the real figures that state that one in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before they reach the age of eighteen.  Based on these figures imagine one in four women and one in six men across all socio-economic backgrounds are living with the previously stated impacts. It is also important to understand that alongside all those victims are the abusers.

All these victims are currently living every day with the damage of their abuse and we are all, without exception, impacted.  Even though victims may not come forward with their abuse for many years or for some never, they are acting, parenting and socialising out of that damaged self every day.

A New Vision

Can you possibly imagine how it would feel to live in a world where this heinous crime was eradicated?  A world where no one ever again had to go through the pain and suffering that goes hand in hand with sexual abuse.  We all have a responsibility to make that a reality. It’s time to ask yourself …. can I do something about this?

The Kavanagh Sisters-14th June 2018

Is 2018 Really the Year of the Woman?

There is hardly a day goes by without a new or historic case of child sexual abuse hitting the headlines along with considerable coverage of the #timesup and #metoo campaigns, you would probably think that the answer to that question above is yes.

The Right to Speak Up

This year marks the centenary of those brave women who fought and finally won the right for women to vote. Oprah Winfrey’s powerful acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille award at the Golden Globes, 2018 was inspirational as she announced that the ‘Time was up’ for abusers with particular reference to powerful and brutal abusive men. She went on to commend all of the brave women who came forth and told their story.  Mentioning celebrities speaking out about their abuse has ignited and bolstered women everywhere to finally come forward and speak out. All of this would appear to suggest that 2018 will be a year when women finally take control of their lives and careers.

Is it a Cause for Celebration?

This all sounds very positive and encouraging. However, just because women are speaking out and finally telling their stories of abuse does not necessarily make it a cause for celebration.

As survivors of sexual abuse, we understand the level of courage it takes to simply type the words ‘Me Too’ or join campaigns like #timesup. Our concern is what happens when they do?  For many women their secret has been hidden or buried for many years and now they can’t go back.

Do we have the resources to deal with the number of victims emerging through these campaigns?  What happens to them after they speak out? Where do they go with their pain, confusion and hurt?

No Political Interest

There is no evidence of our politicians showing any great concern or interest in this issue.  Once again, we appear to be waiting for men in positions of power to do the right thing.  What is holding them back?  How can they not see the value in putting in place the necessary resources?  What has to happen in order to acknowledge that this issue will not go away and requires men to become part of the solution and not the problem.

Something has to give, and things will only get worse if the current stance of turning a blind eye to the underfunded, overburdened minimal services that currently struggle to meet the demands placed upon them. Services like the Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and The CARI Foundation, currently have long waiting lists and their CEO, s have to spend an inordinate amount of their precious time fundraising just to stay open.  It would appear that in Ireland the stance has been taken that it isn’t really anything to do with us and that it is an American celebrity issue.

Taking Responsibility

Although we didn’t have the back up of such campaigns when we were prosecuting our father, we do know the turmoil in our lives when we spoke up and tried to deal with the sheer devastation that came with it.  The memories came flooding back quicker than we could process and for most of the time it felt like we had been hit by a truck.

We who encourage victims to speak out must share the responsibility to provide these brave women with the answers, support and help they so badly need. We also must be mindful not to place undue pressure on women who may not yet be ready to speak out. Waiving anonymity may be a step too far for some and we must honour everyone’s process.  Sexual abuse may be in the media much more than ever, but headlines die as quick as they arise.  Unless there is a celebrity involved the story doesn’t even last 24 hours.

If a victim is lucky enough to receive justice through the courts, what then?  The offender may be placed in prison for a few years, which also seems to depend on the mood of the judge on the day.  The sheer lack of understanding around the impacts of this crime not only on the victim but their families, communities and society are demonstrated all too frequently through grossly inappropriate sentencing.

There remains no pressure on the judicial system to educate themselves on the impacts on its victims and although we can appreciate that all cases are not the same, are we to simply look on as injustice continues through the courts sentencing procedures.  Have we no recourse?  Have we no rights? It would appear that judges are accountable to no one.  Why are they not listening to the people they are there to serve?

We are aware there are many treatment programs available to perpetrators, but none appear to be mandatory.  How can that work? How can things ever be different or produce better outcomes for the public.

These are just some of the real concerns we have around the current outpouring of pain in the world. Particularly on this little isle of ours. We are sure we are not alone when we urge everyone to get on board and do whatever you can do to ensure that women’s pain does not become sound bites and that it does in fact become the year of the woman.  It is time for change……

The Kavanagh Sisters – 23rd April 2018

New Revolutionary Treatment for Childhood Trauma

I just watched a ‘CBS News- 60 Minutes’ (March 11th 2018) programme in which Oprah Winfrey reported on how trauma plays a role in childhood development.

Within the report Oprah spoke to Tim Grove a clinical director at ‘SaintA’ (an organisation located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who finds shelter for some 2,000 abandoned, neglected and abused children, most of whom have suffered childhood trauma.) Tim spoke about how SaintA are helping the children with a revolutionary approach to treating children who have suffered trauma called ‘Trauma Informed Care’.

Why is this New?

To say I was floored by the report would be putting it mildly. I couldn’t believe that this new revolutionary treatment is ‘New’ and not standard practice across all child treatment programmes.

Tim spoke about how they are treating children who present with difficult behaviours, juvenile delinquency, poor performance in school or out of control anger by first focusing on the person’s experiences before trying to correct their behaviours.

Again, I still can’t get my head around what was the normal way of treating a child with these difficulties before now. Surely it makes sense to look into the why? of a child’s problem before you look into the what? of a child’s problem.

Highlighting Trauma

In our book Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’, we talk about the importance of fully understanding just how your abuse (trauma) affects every aspect of your life. We are constantly talking about how if you are to overcome abuse, you first need to understand its origins and impacts.

I applaud Oprah for bringing this to the attention of the masses, for it is a step in the right direction. We could all benefit from a greater understanding of just how trauma affects how individuals behave and express their hurt.

Impacts of Trauma

According to Dr. Bruce Perry who also took part in the programme “If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you’re going to be at risk of almost any kind of physical, mental and social health problem that you can think of.”

Throughout our childhoods and as a direct result of the daily trauma we each suffered, we found everything difficult, relationships, social interactions, attending school, even carrying out the simplest of tasks that appeared to be effortless to our peers, took real concentration and effort for us to complete. We constantly felt lost and confused and were shrouded in self-hatred. All the time blaming ourselves on what had happened to us.

It was only as adults after spending years trying to put the pieces of our lives in some kind of order and through a lot of research, we found all the answers were out there we just needed to know the questions. We could have saved years of pain and suffering if those professionals that we did come into contact with used this form of treatment.

The Why? not the What?

This way of looking at a condition, behaviour or problem is to me the most practical and caring way to treat a person. It simply makes no sense to spend thousands on rehabilitation programmes if you do not first ask the question WHY?

Children of all ages regardless of their circumstances act out of what they feel even if they are totally unaware of those feelings at the time. Asking them Why? instead of What? just makes sense. I am astonished if it is the case that the first place explored by any professional is not ‘what is the driving force behind the child’s behaviour’.

All of our professional bodies that treat, manage, inform or teach children should see this form of treatment as the way to provide a space for children and adults to feel safe and heard. This is something that should not be new but common practice. If we are ever to make positive changes within our communities, we must first provide appropriate supports for those that need them.

If those within the professional bodies are not using this approach i.e. Trauma Informed Care or at the very least not asking why? before what? then we are in trouble. Providing a child with a safe place to go and allowing them to feel heard and seen is the very least that we can do.

Making a Difference

It only takes one person to make a difference in a child’s life. Just one person who cares for a child and gives them attention or a safe place to go. It is not difficult to change the direction of a child’s life. It is the small things that change how we feel about ourselves.

Unfortunately, it is for this very reason that predators are way ahead of the professionals. They understand just how and when to provide the child with attention and use it as part of their grooming of a child. Trauma-based care can prevent children being further victimised by those who exploit and harm them. It can give children the voice building strong resilient survivors and heal wounds.

In my opinion many of our social ills come down to the unmet needs of victims and the unwillingness of those who could make a difference through funding or appropriate legislation caring enough to actually do something. We under-fund those organisations that have any hope to helping people and we fail to educate those that get to pass judgments leaving them without the necessary understanding of the true cost of the impacts of abuse on our society.

 

Paula – 12th March 2018

Getting it Right- to Report or Not to Report

In an article published in the Irish Times on Monday December 11th 2017, Helen Buckley spoke about the many reasons why Children’s First Legislation -Mandatory Reporting of child abuse will put children at greater risk.

She said that the perverse consequences of this legislation may indeed outweigh its benefits due to the current under resourcing of social workers and their lack of availability to address any increase in reporting.

I would just like to give a different perspective on the need for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and why I believe it is at very least an important step in the right direction.

Although Tusla is greatly under resourced and this government and those who went before them fail to protect children. Doing nothing is not the answer. Waiting for yet another report or more evidence that children are in danger is simply scandalous.

Not having adequate reporting structures in place and not providing training for all those working and or caring for children to be able to identify a child at risk is just not good enough. Leaving individuals with the question of ‘who and should I report my suspicions to’? is not going to help anyone.

Knowing that the system that is in place can not handle its current workload is beyond reprehensibly. But it is still not a good enough reason for leaving individuals who suspect and in some cases, know that a child is at risk say nothing to no one only continues to encourage a culture of no accountability.

When I was 7 years old my father raped me so badly that I developed a prolapsed womb and when, at my mother’s instance my parents brought me to hospital to be examined, the doctor that carried out the examination did not report it, he did nothing.

When my sister Joyce told our family doctor when she was 16 that my father was abusing her he did not report it, he did nothing.

When my sister June told a priest in confession what my father was doing to her, he did not report it and again did nothing.

I am not saying that mandatory reporting would have resulted in stopping my father but what I am saying is that at the very lease it would have created a chain of accountability that could be followed and traced back and those individuals that did nothing could be held to account.

Mandatory reporting alone will certainly not solve the many problems of child abuse. Inadequate training provision and lack of political will all need to be challenged. We all have an equal responsibility to report suspected child abuse. We should not require reporting child abuse to be mandatory but unfortunately, we do. The fear of getting it wrong, along with a culture that still exists of minding your own business and not interfering in your neighbours life is not a strong argument for not reporting your suspicions. The risk of getting it wrong is outweighed by the benefits of saving even one child from a life of suffering.

Governments fail time and time again to understand the importance of properly resourcing those agencies that take care of our most vulnerable. The cost of not doing so is a price we all pay. If the cost to society of not providing adequate services to children and all victims of abuse were truly understood, then funding those services would never even be questioned. Mandatory reporting is such a small step to help children, but at lease it is a step.

Paula, December 14th 2017

 

A Signal To Society

On November 24th, 2017, I was watching the RTE news when a relation to the pensioner siblings Willie, Flora and Chrissie Creed who suffered a brutal attack by three men who broke into their home in rural Ireland. The relative spoke about his feelings on the combined 46-year sentence the perpetrators received.  He said that he was extremely happy and believed that the sentence sent out a clear statement that society would not tolerate these crimes.

When I watched the man speaking I couldn’t help but compare the poor sentencing policies we appear to have in relation to sex offences and how society does anything but send out a message that we will not tolerate these particular crimes.

In an article written by Donal O’Keefe www.thejournal.ie in July of 2017, he reported on the case of Magnus Meyer Hustveit who had confessed to regularly raping his girlfriend for over one year while she slept.  The Judge Mr Patrick Mc Carthy actually said before suspending the entire seven-year sentence that if it had not been for Hustveit’s confession there might not have been a prosecution at all.

Why as a society are we not outraged by Judges that are afforded the rights to pass sentencing on crimes that they clearly have no idea of the lifelong impacts they have on their victims.

The Irish Times also reported on the case of former Christian Brother teacher, James Treacy who received a 3.5-year sentence for what was reported as barbaric sexual assaults on boys in his class.

On October 24th 2017 in a highly published case of Tom Humphries a former Irish Times Journalist the Judge Karen O’Connor showed inappropriate empathy when handing down a 2.5 year sentence of which Humphries will serve one year, seven months, and seven days for defilement of a child and grooming her for two years when she was only 14 years old.

Again on November 15th, 2017 the Irish Times reported on a case of David Radford who received a 3 and a half year sentence for sexual assault. David had 15 previous convictions, three of which had been for sexually assaulting women in random attacks dating back as far as 2010 when he was only 14 years old. Another example of a Judge having no idea of what he is doing for the victim of the perpetrator.

My point in highlighting these cases is to demonstrate the urgent need for Judges and all who manage sexual abuse cases to take part in mandatory training on the crimes of abuse and its complexities. It is not only vital that they understand the damage they cause by sending out such lenient sentences to the victims but also the perpetrators. The 14-year-old who comes in front of the courts needs counselling to ensure that the cycle of abuse stops. By either suspending or handing down such ridiculous sentences the judicial system can be accurately accused of colluding or at the very least supporting those who prey on children.

We are all equally responsible for allowing this behaviour to continue by staying quiet and if we want a society that values our children we must speak out. If we can take to the streets because of the unjust call for paying water taxes surely we can do something to demonstrate our outrage at the systems that allow messages to be sent out that if you harm a child you can expect a slap on the wrist at best.

Paula November 30th 2017

 

 

 

 

 

What Messages Are We Sending Our Children?

We would like to respond to yesterday’s sentencing of a 30 year- old man who received two life sentences for repeatedly sexually abusing and raping two young children from Athlone.  We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the families who must be in turmoil and hope they receive all the support they need to move on with their lives as we understand this is both a confusing and painful time.

Is there a negative impact to anonymity?

It was very interesting to hear that there was no consideration given to the perpetrator for his cooperation and guilty plea, and rightly so. However, shouldn’t this same thinking be afforded to perpetrators of adult survivors that come before the courts, as the reality is, their victims were also child victims?

When people in media find it too disturbing to not only talk but to think about this crime, what chance have we got to ever highlight and eradicate child sexual abuse?   We are aware of the discomfort around this subject, but would like to challenge media to recognise that as uncomfortable as it is, this attitude does not support victims.  It is the responsibility of media to educate themselves on the subject of abuse in order to do the victims justice.

Although it is absolutely understandable that the court asked for reporting restrictions due to the families concern that their children will be identified, we need to note that this sends a very strong message that this crime must continue to be shrouded in secrecy.  It also highlights that this belief is held, not only by the few but by society at large.

Again although we can understand the victims need to move on with their lives, it is quite concerning to know, we are sending mixed messages to our children. On one hand, we are asking them to tell somebody, and at the same time, we are being asked to keep it private.  This only succeeds in keeping the crime underground. Consider if this was any other crime against children would the same rules apply?

The fact the children spoke up, were believed and their claims acted on, is a very good sign that we as a nation are doing something right.  However, the call for anonymity around this crime, maybe saying something completely different. As survivors of this crime, our concerns are that in an effort to protect the victims from the media, requesting anonymity sends a clear message to all victims that this crime is shameful.  Secrecy and silence are at the root of this crime so by not openly discussing it, we are feeding into the paradigm of concealment. We must ask ourselves, who are we really protecting?

We are not suggesting for one moment that this becomes the conversation over the garden wall, but more that the stigma attached to this crime, should rest with the perpetrator, not the victim.   He should be the only one hanging his head in shame.

Joyce, June and Paula Kavanagh
Issued on 4th March 2014

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