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 Joan Redmond 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 father abused me from as far back as I can remember. There are no words to describe the impact his actions have had on me over the years.
I know that it destroyed any possibility for me to find comfort within the large family I was born into. Everywhere within that home was perceived by me as a place where I could be ambushed by him so, I have been hyper alert all my life so no safety anywhere especially in that house but that was where I had to live.
As I grew older and became aware that I was not the only one in the firing line and that my mother could not be depended on to protect any of us. My sense of helplessness became unbearable and I sank into an existence of apathy and fear.
At some stage as time went on I knew I had to act regarding what was happening to my sisters. I confronted my mother and all hell broke out. I became the troublemaker in her opinion and had to fight to be heard. So I went from apathy to full blown rage and determination in a very short time. The warrior was born and I’ve been fighting ever since.
I am now 68 years old and I’ve found that very little has changed in this country when it comes to tackling the issue of the vulnerability of our children and the protections and help available when a predator strikes. So I am glad to hear about this campaign ‘Count Me In’. I hope it can begin to alert the community regarding the need for change. I know that this issue is getting great energy and commitment from all the people behind it. All survivors now warriors all on the move.
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 reoffending;
- Provide specialised training for all those who come into contact with or are required to support victims of abuse (Judicial, Garda and frontline 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.