Charles Flanagan, TD.
Minister for Justice and Equality
Department of Justice and Equality
51 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
RE: Count Me In! Survivors of Sexual Abuse Standing Together for Change
My name is George Tobin and I am writing to you as part of the ‘Count Me In! campaign’ (Survivors of Sexual Abuse Standing Together for Change).
I wish to begin by thanking you for getting behind the recent referendum to repeal the 8thAmendment. Regardless of your personal views, we really appreciate how the politicians respected and backed public opinion. Many of you felt that through listening to individual stories you were brought on a journey and that hearing the ‘hard stories’ helped all political parties understand how real people’s lives were affected by the amendment.
I am hoping that by sharing my story you will have a deeper understanding of the issues I face as a result of the abuse I suffered. Armed with this information I hope you feel in a better position to support bringing about the necessary changes to address this problem. Ireland is being provided with the opportunity to again demonstrate that we listen to our citizens and take the necessary action.
Hopefully me sharing my story will bring you on another journey.
My name is George and this is our story about how the sexual abuse of my wife impacted our family. My wife Barbara and I have 4 children, 3 girls and 1 boy.
When I became aware of Barbaras abuse the girls were aged 19,17,15, and our son was just 10 years old. This was 10 years ago after our eldest girl informed us she was pregnant.
The news triggered the memories for my wife Barbara and then began the battle which is ongoing. Barbara began to drink at home and stopped eating. She then attempted suicide and ended up in a phsyciatric ward for 13 weeks. To date she has attempted suicide seven times and is heavily medicated.
Her abusers are now in their 70’s. One has died and the other has moved away. They were neighbours.
Before this we were a normal family doing what families do. We had holidays abroad, went to Florida 3 years before this happened and had great plans for the future. The effect it has had on us as a family is catastrophic.
We no longer holiday and the girls have moved on with their lives. They are angry they lost their mam ten years ago. Our son who had to see his mother being giving Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when he was 12 years old. He was such a funny, happy boy. When Barbara was crying he used to try cheer her up by singing to her ” a smile is not a smile without your eyes” he dropped out of school before his leaving cert and got involved in drugs. This led to a €20,000 drug debt which I’ve had to pay. He is going to college in September so I’m hoping he has come out the other side.
Myself and Barbara were so in love but, now its like I’m just her carer and I hate it. I want her back and I get envious of other couples our age enjoying the fruits of there hard work. We just work hard everyday to keep Barbara focused on what she needs to do to help her recover. Unfortunately Barbara now has emphasyma from smoking too much.
The bastards that caused this raised their own families who didn’t have the pain and sorrow my beautiful girls did. I am so proud they have all turned out to be carers and decent, well liked girls.
This abuse fecked up the path we had chosen for ourselves and we had to take it day by day. Barbara is still heavily medicated and sleeps most of the time. It is such a shame but we just got used too it.
I hope that after reading my story you have gained a better understanding of how difficult it is to live with the impacts of sexual abuse. The difficulty in gaining access to appropriate services that are both affordable and local only make matters worse.
We will be asking for the following changes to be implemented by our legislators to ensure that the issues surrounding abuse are being tackled from all perspectives:
- Guidelines to ensure consistency in sentencing of all sex offenders.
- When sentencing, no consideration should be given to sex offenders for age, health or their standing in the community;
- If sentencing is to run concurrently the amount of charges must considered and the sentence must be lengthened adequately to ensure justice is served;
- Incentives to reduce the length of sentence, any remission and or temporary release should to be linked to the offenders’ participation and engagement in an evidenced based treatment programme;
- Treatment to be available to offenders both in prison and following their release, this will support their reintroduction in to society and reduce the risk of re-offending;
- Provide specialised training for all those who come into contact with or are required to support victims of abuse (Judicial, Garda and front-line workers).
- Expert witness to be called in all sexual abuse cases to ensure court understands victim behavior.
- Provide free services for those who need support.
- Provide adequate funding to Rape Crisis Centres, One in Four and CARI not only to eliminate waiting lists but also fund the much-needed expansion of their services. DRCC have a waiting list of at least nine months for people to access their services. CARI have over 100 children on their waiting lists. One in Four are also struggling to meet the needs presented to them due to lack of funding.
- Fund a second SAVI report so that accurate information is made available to assist the much-needed strategic planning, development and implementation of services for victims, their families and offenders.
As my representative, I would be grateful if you would raise these issues at the earliest opportunity in the Dáil and bring it to the attention of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
I thank you for giving consideration to this issue and I look forward to hearing from you.