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The Kavanagh Sisters Posts

Why People Continue to Support Donald Trump?

To answer the question about why people, continue to support Donald Trump, you would have to try to put yourself in the mindset of his supporters. Whether we like it or not, he is appealing to a lot of people.  The questions we really should be asking are who is voting for him and why?

Timing

I believe timing is important in terms of Trump being in power at this time in history.  I also believe that Barrack Obama’s term in office ironically contributed to Trumps rise to power. Obama’s presidency was perceived by many to be a “game changer.”  People of colour and marginalised people everywhere raised their hopes, they believed they would finally be represented politically.

Although Obama did a lot of good during his presidency, I am not sure those changes were felt by the underprivileged.  This I believe contributed to a complete sense of hopelessness.

Some might say that Trump was in the right place at the right time.

Racism is another contributing factor in Trumps ability to become the President of America. There is a considerable percentage of racists in America who saw Obama’s presidency as a step too far, so when Trump came along, he was seen as someone that would reclaim control in the White House.

Why Trump?

After Obama, people were unsure what was ahead for them, but knew they didn’t want to return to the ‘status quo’ of politics in America.  Along came Trump, who didn’t speak political jargon, made claims that he was better than all the politicians who have not helped the people. He promised that he cared and could make a brighter future for the squeezed middle classes.

Trump shamelessly promoted himself with passion and arrogantly said he would fight for the people.  As he had a so-called track record of being a self-made millionaire and he convinced a number of people that his experience would ensure he succeeded in making life better for the people of America.

He continually told everyone how he understood their problems and he, unlike others that went before him intended to fix everything that was wrong with America. His claims of being fearless, wealthy and that he couldn’t be bought along with promising that no one could stop him got him votes.  His constant bashing of the media and claims that everyone else was lying (fake news) to the people fed into people’s existing mistrust of all politicians.

Narcissist

Why can’t Trumps supporters see what we see? Trump is a textbook narcissist, incapable of caring about anyone but himself. His decisions are based on his ego and fed by his own insecurities which makes him extremely dangerous.

 

He is happy to claim full credit for everything. He has no awareness and doesn’t realise or care that he is promoting and inciting hatred and racism. He is incapable of understanding that he is creating a highly volatile and abusive culture that took centuries to overcome.  He continues to promote fear and insecurity in his followers. His agenda is completely ego driven. He sees himself as the ultimate power and without a doubt will continue to abuse his position.

His Appeal

Why people voted for Trump may be incomprehensible to many, however, it is not the only country to vote unbelievably for a misogynistic egocentric man. Brazil recently appointed President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right President whose views alongside Trumps would not sit well with most right-minded people.

Why?  is the question we should all be focused on getting an answer to.  Could part of the reason men like this manage to gain so much power be as the result of not providing equal access and opportunities in education for all?

Disillusionment

I believe, what we are witnessing all over the world is a response to inequality.  People are tired of feeling powerless, abused by those who are supposed to represent them. There is growing resentment between the haves and the have nots’ as the gap gets even wider and the realisation that those in power will never do the right thing. People want change and are looking for real leadership. They are sick of being on no one’s priority list.  Seeing daily on social media all they could have but never will.

Social media has provided access to information on the corruption that exists in every corner of our society. This has compounded the hopelessness people already feel. People experience inequality and injustice everywhere they turn along with no hope of a better life for themselves or their family. With poor wages, two tier health system, unaffordable education, unattainable housing, it is getting harder every day to simply survive and it doesn’t seem to matter who comes into power as life for those at the bottom of the ladder doesn’t improve.

Tipping Point

It would appear that we are at a tipping point and the upheaval we are witnessing in the world today, has at its core, inequality. There is a cost to us all when just one person isn’t treated fairly.  What politicians don’t seem to realise is the urgency in addressing the inequality and the repercussions if they don’t.

I believe greed is the cause of a lot of our problems. It has and continues to result in immoral corrupt power-hungry politicians, elitists who are out of touch with the people on the ground, big pharma, who are prepared to poison us to make money and the heads of industry, making it impossible for people to access what should be basic human rights, like decent homes, good healthcare, education childcare and fair wages.

Politicians only see things through their own filter of privilege and education. This seems to prevent them from really understanding the plight of others.  Do they really believe that our homeless children today, are going to grow up well-adjusted contributing, happy productive members of society?

Time for change

The lessons (and there are lessons in every situation) as far as I can gather, is for the world, not just America, to stop tolerating and accepting corrupt self-serving. Politicians. Maybe a place to start is to put all our politicians on a normal working wage. Remove their entitlement to more than one pension and let them wait like us until they do actually retire before they have access to it.  Hold them accountable for their actions and if after an agreed period in the job they do not deliver on promises made have them removed. This would level the playing field. They should have the same access to education, housing, and healthcare as the rest of society. This will help to change how they see the services available to everyone and motivate them to improve them.

Bottom line is, there are real and deadly consequences to inequality. Although I don’t think we can ever rid ourselves of inequality, we should always be striving to.

June Kavanagh – 8th November 2018 

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

Sexual Abuse has No Gender Preference

We claim to be experts only when speaking about our own experience of abuse, but because we are women who were abused by a man, we tend to speak in general about female victims and male perpetrators.  However, it is important to note, that we do not intend to exclude male victims of sexual abuse when we do this.

GENDER INEQUALITY

I have always felt strongly about gender inequality.  Not just because it’s so unfair but because it’s a major contributing factor in all sexual abuse crimes. However, there is one female attribute that tips the scales a little in our favour that I am very grateful for. That is, the ability to discuss our feelings.

I’ve often thought that at some point in history, powerful men foolishly overlooked this feminine attribute.  They must have viewed it as non-threatening or they would have put a stop to or curtailed it in some way.  Instead throughout the ages men have smugly demeaned women’s emotional intelligence through labelling it as either ‘women’s talk’, ‘women just being neurotic’, ‘nagging’ or simply women engaging in gossip’. They appeared to believe that women sharing their feelings held no value whatsoever and often prided themselves on not possessing this female trait.

Boy where they wrong. Without our ability to discuss and explore our feelings, the issues around sexual abuse would never have come to light and we wouldn’t have learned about the levels of harm it has left in its wake.  Talking about how we feel is probably the most important tool we have to get us out of this mess, and let’s face it, it is one hell of a mess.

CHANGE OF HEART

The first time I heard that boys were being sexually abused, I was genuinely shocked.  I never expected it and It added another dimension to this crime I hadn’t expected.   It was a lot for me to take in.

The realisation that boys too where being sexually abused was probably the beginning of my change in attitude towards men.  I had to consider them going through what I’d been through.  It wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t very willing.  I hated and resented men for so long because all my suffering had been at the hands of a man. Seeing men as victims opened my heart and gave me a lot to think about.

When cases started to emerge in the media of women who were also sexually abusing young girls and boys, I felt so confused.  I didn’t want to believe it and still don’t, but it is the truth. I had to accept that this crime was far more complex than I had originally thought, and also, that it was not gender specific.

WORK TO BE DONE

There is an awful lot of work still to be done as every day more and more sexual abuse is being uncovered.  The media is now saturated with stories of sexual abuse and we believe we are still only touching the tip of the iceberg.  We must focus on healing the courageous victims that are speaking out while continuing to encourage further male and female victims of sexual abuse to come forward and heal.

Female victims have the advantage because of their capacity to share how they feel.  We need to make it safe for men to do the same. These men may be our husbands, sons, fathers or brothers.  We all need each other and there are many reasons why we have a duty to help men deal with their abuse. Firstly, we need to support and have compassion for those men who were actively discouraged against discussing their feelings, because we understand its importance in recovery. Men were always taught that sharing feelings was a weakness. If we do not help them to communicate and talk about how they feel, we will continue to see men remain trapped in their pain. Men who stay stuck in pain and hurt are destined to develop negative thinking patterns and behaviours that impact those around them.

They may become aggressive and act out their anger because it is one emotion that has always been considered acceptable for men.

Secondly, it is the right thing to do. If we want real equality, it goes both ways.  We need to keep our hearts open.  Our society will remain negatively impacted if even one person doesn’t receive the help they deserve.

It is fair to say that there are both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse in all walks of life here in Ireland, working at all levels in our society, infiltrating, influencing and manipulating all our institutions.  We simply have no way to measure the effect this is having on our way of life. We need to consider how our lives are and will continue to be impacted and shaped by this fact with the understanding that perpetrators and victims who have not received any help or support may be responsible for making decisions every day that affects our lives.  It would be unreasonable to expect favourable or positive outcomes from damaged people.

CHALLENGE EVERYTHING, WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT

Men and women need to challenge what they were taught about their gender. What where you told was a man or a woman’s role?  Do you agree with it? what makes a man, a man, or a woman, a woman? Just what qualities, behaviours, attributes or feelings were assigned to each gender.  What as a woman or a man where you told you should be aiming for in life. Ask yourself is it now what you want?

We must make it acceptable for men to express their vulnerabilities, share their fears and thoughts with us and their male friends. Ensure men that they will be gaining something, not losing.  We could all be better at seeing the sharing of pain as an act of bravery not one of weakness. The old saying that ‘real men don’t cry’ has to be eliminated from deep in our consciousness.   Men must also get on board and acknowledge women’s emotional intelligence and do their part to ensure equality.

REALLY NOT IMPORTANT

I have reached a point in my life where I realise I will never understand why or how one person can sexually abuse another, and it doesn’t really matter.  What does it matter if it’s a girl or a boy, a man or a woman, sexual abuse is always wrong and has no gender preference. It is time to understand that sharing our experiences and emotions without shame or concern of judgement is the only way forward for all of us.

June – 20th August 2018

Are we Ready to Face the Truth?

With the pending visit to Ireland of Pope Francis in August, it may be a good opportunity for us all to re-examine our religious beliefs and look at how Irish society has been formed and influenced by the Church. It may also be right to realise that even if the church don’t admit and take responsibility for the many children in Ireland who suffered sexual abuse, we all need to acknowledge that due to their oppression and dominance their teachings created the environment that enabled child sexual abuse to grow to levels we are still not even touching the sides of.

Body Shame

I recently joined a Zumba dance class and although it was very enjoyable, I couldn’t help but notice the vast difference between the instructor and the Irish women present.  The instructor looked so free and comfortable with her body while the Irish women looked stiff and prohibited whenever the movements could be perceived any way sexual in nature.

It is so long since I had taken part in anything like this that I was more than a little shocked at how self-conscious I was about how I looked doing these movements.  I thought it must be a cultural thing, my body is never going to be able to gyrate like that.

Later when I returned home and thought about it, I realised that yes it was cultural.  I had been taught a long time ago that my body and all its sexual functions were shameful. I was taught by a system that set me up as a sexual target, to be used and abused.

The Dominance of the Church

The system I refer to is the catholic church which aligned themselves with the government. Together they took up the mantle of oppression after English colonisation ended.  The Irish nation were still recovering and seeking hope for a brighter future.  The church promised heaven if you followed the commandments and Irish people were hurting, poor and with little or no education and so followed like sheep to the slaughter house. The church took advantage of Ireland’s time of need and instead of providing leadership, the church, together with the government took control over everyone.

Keepers of Our Souls

When I was a child, the church was responsible for our moral conduct and the keepers of our souls.  Everyone believed they had a direct line to God and so whatever they said must be true.

In my opinion, the church did the ground work and prepared all of us, albeit unintentionally, to be sexually abused.  The sermons in the pulpit sent out the message that sex was a bad thing unless you were married, it was not meant to be enjoyed but rather it was meant purely for procreation purposes.

In case that message wasn’t strong enough the church prohibited contraception to ensure no one had autonomy over their own bodies or the opportunity to have a free and healthy sex life that they themselves could control.  And according to the church, masturbation was also bad.  This sent out the clear message that your body was something to be ashamed of.

Intentionally or not, this left everyone feeling ashamed and overly self-critical of their bodies. They became frightened of any sexual drive, and like the forbidden fruit, this led to an unhealthy interest in sex.  What is, and should have always been a perfectly natural and healthy part of the human experience was deliberately destroyed and used as a weapon of control against lay people.

How to Control the Masses

The church set the tone for how women were to be viewed and treated.  They dominated women’s lives completely and seemed to take a special interest in controlling their sexuality.   In 1944 the church opposed the introduction of Tampons, claiming they might arouse women.

The mother and child scheme in 1950 was also opposed by the church which would have provided mothers and their children up to age 16 free health care. Up to then the church dictated on a woman’s ability to reproduce and feared that this scheme would open the door to contraception and abortion. As they owned and ruled over the hospitals and schools, they held a lot of power. However, it wasn’t till 1985 when women fought together, that the church finally lost their battle to stop women accessing contraception.

For the longest time a woman couldn’t refuse to have sex with her husband. If a couple were having problems in their relationship, the husband went to see the priest who would then inform the woman, that she should honour her ‘wifely duties’.  This sent a clear and powerful message to everyone that men were superior, and women were nothing but their property, to do with as they pleased.

How Education was Manipulated

To maintain their control the church needed to keep everyone subservient and ignorant. Education was and remains a powerful tool to keep the masses under control.

For women education was considered a waste of time and money. Women had a role to play that did not require them to think for themselves, they were only ever going to run a home and raise a family.

For men in the 1960’s the church made it a mortal sin to even attend Trinity College and regarded it as an unsafe environment for “the fateful.” This was endorsed by the Vatican and if you wanted to go to trinity, you had to get special dispensation from the pope, a letter of tolerance. This ban was in fact not lifted until 1971.

State & Church Rule Together

The government ruled on the few aspects of women’s lives that the church couldn’t reach. Everywhere in society women were given the strong message that men’s need’s and lives were more important than theirs.

Men were given all the control in and outside the home. In 1973-Married women had to leave their jobs in the civil service, as it was considered that they were occupying jobs that men should be holding. A woman had to get signed permission from their husband to collect children’s allowance. A woman couldn’t earn the same rate for a job as a man, she couldn’t even order a pint unless she had a man with her and even then, she was asked to pour it into two half pint glasses and sit in the snug out of sight.

As you had to be a homeowner woman were excluded from sitting on a jury. If a woman was being beaten by her husband, she had to put up with it as she was not allowed to apply for a barring order against her husband.

The list goes on and on.

Our History Influences our Present & Future

It is not about placing blame and responsibility on the state and church for the past. It is however, about acknowledging the reality of what happened here in Ireland, with particular reference to women.  Examining how the church’s actions alongside the governments support created an environment for sexual crimes to happen is necessary. Understanding that not only did they breed a cultural of acceptance of women being objects, but throughout history when an attitude exists where anyone feels more entitled, valuable or important than another person or group of people, appalling, sometimes unthinkable things happen.

No one is ‘less than’ anyone else. That is the Ireland we are striving for. The beliefs held and culture of non-accountability that allows child sexual abuse to continue has to stop. I firmly believe that the time is right, and it can happen when we all stand together and say ‘enough is enough.’

You cannot stifle human nature or the human spirit.

June Kavanagh – 6th August 2018

The Importance of Sex Education in Schools

A Bill to prevent schools from using their religious ethos to avoid teaching fact-based and responsible sex relationships education to their pupils, is currently at the second stage of debating before the Dáil.  The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill is designed to prevent denominational schools teaching sex education based on their own views of sexuality and intimacy. This Bill was developed to ensure that all students regardless of their religious backgrounds are provided with an understanding about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues in a non-bias, objective manner. If successful, this Bill will further sever the grip the church once held over family life in Ireland.

Practice what you Preach

One does not have to look too hard to see that while the catholic church where preaching the virtues of chastity, abstinence and celibacy, they themselves, where in large numbers following a different set of rules. Not only have we seen several priests in relationships with members of their congregation, ignoring their own promise of celibacy, but more alarming is the large percentage of priests engaging in the rape and sexual abuse of countless numbers of innocent children.

When I was young the catholic church had a lot of power over our daily lives.  Irish people trusted the church completely and considered them above reproach.  We respected priests and believed they acted as god’s representatives here on earth. For most Irish families it was considered an honour to have a priest in the family. Whatever the priest advised us to do, was done without question. They owned our hospitals and schools, giving them control over our medical care and our education.  This provided the church with the power to rule over every aspect of the general populations lives.

Sex is a Sin

The church intruded self-righteously into every aspect of Irish citizens development with special attention to their sex lives.  They preached that sex was only for procreation, even if married, it was not intended to be enjoyed.  They taught that masturbation was sinful and that your body was something to be ashamed of.

The scars from this form of thinking are still being felt today.  They managed to destroy so many lives through their teachings around sexuality. They made us believe that God apparently didn’t mind us having sex, but we certainly shouldn’t want or enjoy it.

We believed and trusted them. They set us up.  We couldn’t win.  We were destined to live a guilt-ridden existence for feeling something we are hardwired to feel.  It is a perfectly normal human reaction to feel sexual desire.  Even animals have that.  It ensures that life goes on and we don’t become extinct.

Exposed

In recent years, so many sexual abuse crimes committed by members of the church have come to light. It seems that every week there is yet another priest or bishop in the media accused of either committing or covering up sexual abuse against a child. It is incredible to me that it is taking us so long as a nation to break free of the churches misleading guidance and utter brainwashing around our sexuality but most importantly our children’s sexuality.

Conditioning

There are many well-meaning parents out there who are still under the church’s influence, conditioned to believe that early sex education for our children is not a good thing.  The belief is held that teaching children about their bodies and sex will destroy their innocence. That the child’s happiness will somehow be compromised.  Can they not see that the people who initiated this opinion had their own agenda and did not love our children as we do?

I was groomed from birth leading up to full penetrative sexual intercourse at age four. I am not unusual in terms of the age the grooming process can begin. For me there was huge confusion surrounding my abuse because I did not know what sex was and I was never told that no one should touch my private parts. Sex was not something that was ever openly discussed either at home or in school. I had no opportunity to understand what was happening to me.  Because I didn’t know what sex was, I hadn’t the language or understanding to describe even to myself what was happening. This is what we need to consider when we talk about teaching sex education in schools.  Everyone thinks it will never happen to their children, because they would know, they would spot an abuser and stop them getting near their child.  Everyone thinks that, but that’s not the way it works.

Things could have been different

If I had been told in school, through the media or at home that sexual abuse happens, and that if anyone touches your privates or makes you do anything you don’t want to do, it is wrong and that I could tell someone who would help it stop.  If I had been told that if this happens to you, you did nothing wrong and it is not ok, no matter who it is abusing you, my life could have been so different. There is nothing wrong with age appropriate sex education.  It doesn’t damage the child, it protects them.  Ignorance does not equal innocence.

Change is Needed

We have a job ahead of us to attempt to undo the damage to our own sexuality and body shaming which was imposed on us by the catholic church’s teachings so the sooner we get started the better. We need to do this for several reasons, (1) you cannot give what you do not have, and we won’t be able to help the next generation develop a healthy approach to their sexuality if we don’t heal our own wounds first. (2) We need to act now because the church has lost control and the younger generation need some guidance in this area of their lives.  We need to replace the lessons we learned with promoting a positive body image and healthy self-esteem.  We also need to teach a guiltfree approach to accepting themselves for being sexual beings.  Can you imagine?

As the numbers of young suicides continue to grow, it is important that we do not leave our young turning to the internet for answers.  They will be no better off than we were if their education takes place alone in front of a screen. With such easy access to porn we can be sure using this option can only lead to further confusion, self-hatred and pain.  We need to build up our children.  Provide them with the tools they need to navigate this new world we find ourselves in.  Times are changing, and we need to educate ourselves before we do any more damage to our children.

We need to encourage emotional wellbeing in our sons and daughters.  Teach them how to communicate, talk about their feelings.  These life skills will help them work through their issues. Introduce meditation and yoga in the early stages of school, promoting good mental health and a healthy body image.  We need to recognise the gaps that are occurring in our children’s lives and address them.

We will all pay the price of not taking the appropriate actions.  We already are.

June Kavanagh -14th June 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

Father’s Day – A Survivors Guide

For some the approaching Father’s Day is a happy occasion and one where the opportunity to demonstrate how much our fathers mean to us, is a cause to celebrate. For others this can be a very emotional and difficult time and be a reminder of a father that has passed away or was never present to begin with.

Those of us who have suffered abuse at the hands of our father, will not welcome this celebration. This time of the year can be highly triggering and unsettling. Even when you feel you have dealt with your abuse and moved on, the media bombarding us with messages of what we could and should be feeling, can make it seem that our abuser still has control over our emotions.

Absent Fathers

The absence of a father on Father’s Day can bring up feelings of loss, hurt, anger and resentment. A father’s love is supposed to be special and as much as you may want to, you cannot replace the love he should have given to you.

Don’t waste your time with questioning what your life would have been if he was a different man. A father who nurtured and cared for you, protected you from those that would hurt you. I wasted a lot of years mourning the father I never had. I’d find myself day-dreaming of how our relationship should have been and longed for a father like those I watched in the movies. The father who would move mountains to help me, the father who didn’t judge, one that I could count on to help me no matter what trouble I landed myself in.

Unrealistic Images of Fathers

Even today on TV and movies, fathers are painted as being strong, funny, comforting and protective. This is not reflective of my experience and only reminds me of the lack in my life and the longing I had growing up.  The media will never acknowledge that this day can be fraught with pain and trauma for many women.  Father’s Day is about making money for the retailers, nothing more.

Secondary Victims

If you father was your abuser and is no longer living but you have not disclosed your abuse to other family members, the day will still be difficult as they are likely to reminisce about their positive experience and the good times they had. Remember all siblings experience will be unique to them, try not to take it personal.

If you are a mother of an abused child, who was abused by your partner, you may also struggle at this time of the year. Feelings of guilt, responsibility, anger and hurt will rise to the surface. Be mindful not to direct these feeling inwards, they belong with the abuser.

Mothers of abusers are also likely to find this time extremely difficult as they struggle to see what they could have done differently. They may ask questions like; how could I have stopped the abuse? How could I have helped my child to not hurt another a child? Why didn’t I see something? Why did they do this?

Confusion and pain can make this time of the year impossible to ignore. Remind yourself you are innocent and feeling anything other than that is not helping. Understanding how difficult it is for you to leave guilt where it belongs can allow you to understand and support your child as they try to do the same.

Tips for Minding Yourself

  • It is important that you mind yourself at this time. Acknowledging what you are feeling is important and will help you manage the difficult days ahead. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with those you trust and allow them to support you.
  • If you do not have anyone in your life that you feel can support you, call a helpline or reach out to a support group. Others with similar experiences are likely to be best placed to support and understand what you are going through.
  • Join a support group (Survivors Side by Side) is a great resource. It is a Closed group on face-book so you will feel safe sharing with others.
  • Don’t feel guilty or be guilted by other family members to join in celebrations and if you don’t wish to discuss your reasons with them don’t feel pressurised to do so.
  • Writing can help you gain access to your pain and help you to move past the anger that may arise.  So, take some time to yourself and write how your life has changed positively without your father.
  • Celebrate those fathers that you respect and admire. We all know someone that we feel is doing a good job.
  • Finally, it is important to acknowledge that against all odds you have turned into an amazing woman, doing the best you can with what you know at any given time.

Moving Forward

Today I barely acknowledge Father’s Day and am grateful not to have the stress of buying gifts and pretending everything is normal.  This came with time for me and I can honestly say it is because I no longer carry around the burden of hating and despising my father.  Letting him go meant he no longer had space in my thoughts and I was free to live my life at last

Pain can be overwhelming but may be disguised under the umbrella of anger.  Each time you remember something your father did or didn’t do can bring your hurt to the surface. In the sharing of these stories we can become locked into the pain of the past and end up giving our power away.

You are the one in control, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Make a choice to turn this day into a positive experience. Go wild, try something new, you just might surprise yourself.

Joyce – 15th 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

How Do we Fix Our Broken People?

Sexual Abuse is accepted across the world as being the most under-reported crime and here in Ireland we are no different. With our current population and our seriously outdated statistics, we can estimate that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their past. That means there are at least 900 thousand citizens currently living with the impacts of abuse.

Now take into account that the abusers are out there too. Based on these figures we also must realise that for every victim there is an abuser. We would all like to think that we would recognise a child abuser if we saw one. That we can pick them out of the crowd based on their creepy look or their odd behaviour. But those stereotypes are simply that, stereotypes. The fact is, child abusers are not monsters, they don’t walk around with signs saying ‘abuser’.  They are able to include themselves in our lives and our children’s lives because we trust them.

An abuser can have many victims but let’s take a conservative figure of an abuser abusing 2 victims, that means there are 4.5 hundred thousand sexual predators living amongst us.

As horrific as these statistics are, we reckon that at best, half of our population are directly impacted by abuse and all of our population, suffer the secondary impacts of abuse victims and perpetrators living within our communities.

Unlocking the Memories

As victims of child sexual abuse, we understand just how difficult it is for victims to open the doors they hid their memories of abuse behind.  However, without unlocking your memories of abuse, those memories will be the fuel that drives you forward or keeps you stuck. Though those memories or emotions can be on an unconscious level, they are most likely the force behind every decision, relationship and dream you have for yourself and those around you. Until you are able to open those doors and look into the dark spaces you will continue to live your life as a victim, which not only affects you but all those around you.

Tell me Why?

Offenders can only continue with their behaviour if they remain in the dark about the impact of their actions on their victims. As a victim myself, I wanted to know why my father did what he did, and I desperately wanted him to understand the damage he did to me and be truly sorry.  It wouldn’t have taken away the pain of what was done but, if I had any chance of understanding the ‘why me?’ element of the abuse, it might have helped me heal a little and find forgiveness for myself sooner.

A Reason to Look?

Why would an abuser look? We need to give them a reason to explore the why and how they do what they do.  Seeing into their dark places will provide them with the answers to the questions they hide from themselves.

How we view rapist, sex offenders and paedophiles as less than human, monster’s or creatures that deserve neither compassion nor understanding serves no one and certainly is not helping to stop their offending.  They, like victims need answers if we are ever to stop abuse.  Simply placing them behind bars is not the answer. Offenders absolutely need to be punished and suffer the consequences for their actions and the lives they have destroyed. Their punishment will allow the victims to feel vindicated, heard and most importantly believed.

Make it Stop

Surly we all want abuse to stop, for suffering from this act to stop. We have no choice but to find solutions to stop abuse, to show those who commit these atrocities that they need to stop. You will never change anything if you do not understand why you do it and what impact you are having on someone’s life.

If that is to happen we have to stop seeing sex offenders as separate to us, but rather people within our communities that are damaged and need repairing. Probably more importantly we need to have support and help available throughout the country to prevent abusers ever getting to the point of action. There has to be a better way as clearly what we are currently doing is not working.

New Measures

Today 6th June 2018 the government announced that it is considering new measures, including electronic tagging, to tighten restrictions on sex offenders after they are released from prison. The tag would be dependent on the risks that sex offenders pose on the community. The released sex offenders will also be required to be finger printed, photographed and register with gardaí within 3 days of their release from jail and provide any change of address.

A New Approach

We must stop with our reactive response and begin by treating the cause and not simply the symptoms.  We don’t even do that adequately enough, the scant service provision and cost of attending therapy along with long waiting lists further inflict pain and suffering on the victims of these crimes.

We must begin by providing balanced solutions that help all those impacted, victims and perpetrators alike. We must stretch ourselves and see past the behaviour that destroys lives and look at the person behind them. Only viewing sexual abuse from one angle will not change the outcomes. The ones committing these crimes are the only ones that can provide the answers that we need. We need to provide treatments that will prevent these heinous crimes occurring in the first place.

 

 “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,

you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”

W.L.Bateman

 

Isn’t it time we fixed all our broken people.

Paula Kavanagh- 6th June 2018

 

Germaine, Germaine, Germaine!

Like most women and men who have experienced rape, we read Germain Greer’s call for punishment for rape to be reduced with anger and disbelief.

Sadly, this is not the first time reduced sentences in rape cases has been an issue, as every day within out court rooms, judges, juries and those that are either defending the accused or prosecuting them fail to understand the complexities of the damage that rape does to its victims.

What makes it even more upsetting is the fact that Germaine herself is a victim of rape which could lend weight to the argument that victims should just ‘get over it’ as though it is a common cold. As this is the type of thinking we are trying to change through education and understanding this crime, she is doing a great disservice to women throughout the world with these words.

Germaine adds insult to injury by saying that rape should be viewed as ‘non-consensual, lazy, careless and insensitive’. This is clearly a woman that has chosen to never explore her own rape and how it has influenced her thoughts and behaviours. Rather than deal with her own ‘stuff’, she is suggesting other rape victims move on and forget it ever happened, with no consideration to what the experience has done to them physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Greer goes on to say “You might want to believe that the penis is a lethal weapon and that all women live in fear of that lethal weapon, well that’s bullshit. It’s not true. We don’t live in terror of the penis … A man can’t kill you with his penis.”

I’m sorry to say that a penis is and has all through history been used against women as a very powerful weapon. We believe that what Greer is saying is very dangerous at a time when we are finally putting women’s issues at the top of the agenda.

We simply don’t understand how a woman who experienced a violent rape can speak about it in this way.

For victims, the effects of rape can be devastating. They feel substantial distress and display a wide range of psychological symptoms, both short- and long-term.  They feel powerless, ashamed, and distrust others. The abuse, if it happens in childhood, disrupts their development and increases the likelihood that they will experience other sexual assaults in the future.

In the short term they can exhibit regressive behaviours such as, sleep disturbances, eating problems, behaviour and/or performance problems at school/work and unwillingness to participate in social activities.

Long term they can suffer with anxiety, self-destructive behaviours such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, and insomnia.

Victims feel fear and anxiety in response to triggers which pop up without warning. These triggers can be simply things like smells, expressions that remind them of the rapist or something that is said innocently.  They can experience difficulties in forming relationships and can either indulge in inappropriate sex or avoid sex altogether.

They can feel anger at the rapist and those around them who failed to protect them. But even worse still they can direct anger at themselves for not stopping the rape as it took place.  They feel betrayed and powerless and often feel stigmatised by the shame, guilt and take on the responsibility for what happened to them.

They are now likely to have a higher rate of being revictimized as their self-worth is either low or non-existent. Due to the rape they feel worthless and abnormal and hold a distorted view of sex, and without intervention they can become suicidal.

We believe if this was known and understood by the masses we would have a better chance of making appropriate changes to how sexual abuse is viewed and dealt with.

Thank you, Germaine, for making the argument for the importance of dealing with your ‘STUFF’.

The Kavanagh Sisters -31st May 2018

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