One in Four is saddened by the resignation of Marie Collins from the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors today. Marie is a prominent survivor of clerical abuse and has been a stalwart campaigner for change within the Catholic Church in how it responds to survivors.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “ Marie Collins was among the first survivors of child sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church to speak openly about her experiences. Her bravery was instrumental in encouraging other survivors to come forward and in forcing the Irish State to put in place four Commissions of Investigation which uncovered the dark, hidden world of clerical sexual abuse. She is recognised internationally as a woman of the highest integrity. She had real hopes that her participation on the Vatican Commission would lead to genuine change at the very top of the Catholic Church.
Marie’s resignation after three frustrating years brings into question the sincerity of top-level Vatican personnel in responding to survivors of sexual abuse. The way in which the Curia stymied most recommendations of the Commission shows a reluctance to accept the reality of clerical sexual abuse. Despite all the protestations of commitment to child protection, it appears that very little has really changed. Many survivors would like to remain within the Catholic Church and they had placed a great deal of confidence in the Commission because of Marie’s participation. They will be disappointed and distressed today. But like One in Four, they will understand that Marie had no option but to resign if she were to retain her credibility and integrity.”
One in Four today says that the newly published reports on the abuse of “Grace” reveal shocking but familiar failures by statutory agencies to protect the most vulnerable children in our society.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “I find it unbearable to think of the suffering endured by Grace and the other children involved. I also find it unbearable to think that these vulnerable people will have to endure the impact of the abuse they sustained as long as they live. I am ashamed that such torment could have happened to children who were in the care of the Irish State.
There has been a deluge of Inquiries and Investigations dealing with failures by statutory child protection services. To name a few, let us remember the Kilkenny Incest Case, the Madonna House Case, the Ryan Report, the Roscommon Case, the Death of Children in care Report – it goes on and on. A core finding of most of these reports has been that people know that something was amiss and failed to act. Another common feature is that nobody is ever held accountable. Each of these reports has also produced a long list of recommendations to prevent future failures, but many of them have never been implemented.
I am glad there will be an investigation into the matter, but I have to be somewhat cynical that it will cause a radical change in how we protect our children. We need to acknowledge that our child protection services are woefully under-resourced and as a result children regularly fall through the safety net. And we need to ask ourselves what kind of a society we have created where we heedlessly accept that children are routinely placed at risk of abuse and neglect. “
There was very good news on Tuesday that the contentious Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 had finally been passed by the Oireachtas. The Bill had provoked strong opposition from some of our male politicians because one of its effects is to criminalise the purchase of sex for the first time. Other important elements of the Bill did not get as much attention but in the long term will both help to prevent the sexual abuse of children and for those who are abused, will help reduce the trauma of the criminal trial.
For too long the needs of victims of sexual crimes have been ignored in the criminal justice system. Many survivors who are supported by One in Four describe the experience of being a complainant witness in a criminal trial as being the most humiliating, demeaning and traumatising event they have ever experienced. The witness is forced to recall in great detail the painful and distressing details of the sexual abuse they have suffered. In the absence of witnesses to the crime or forensic evidence, the survivor is often subjected to a deliberate attempt to undermine their credibility and their personal integrity. This is the adversarial system we have.
This will not change completely when the new Bill is signed into law. But in several important ways, new protections will be introduced.
There will be new constraints on the possibility that the survivor could be cross-examined by the accused person.
And for the first time, if the survivor has been in counselling, their counselling notes cannot be automatically obtained by the accused person and his defence team.
The presiding judge will have no powers to decide if the notes should be produced, and which sections of the notes should be allowed.
The right to privacy of the survivor and the public interest in encouraging survivors to receive psychological support without the fear of their counselling notes being read by their abuser have been strengthened.
For survivors, giving evidence about their abuse experience still remains a daunting task and there is much else to be addressed before the criminal justice system pays adequate attention to the needs of survivors. However, this is a very welcome step on the way.
Some things to know about Child Sex Abuse and the role of the internet with Safe Internet Day 2017 here;
Today more than 100 countries worldwide, including all 28 countries of the European Union, are celebrating Safer Internet Day (SID) for the fourteenth year running.
We do need to be conscious of the dangers of the internet, it’s fantastic in that it opens all sorts of possibilities for people, but clearly some will misuse it and it can as you say be an impetus towards abuse. But of course we did have abuse ever before the internet so let’s not say the internet only is responsible, this is a crime that predates the internet.
Why Safe Internet Day Matters to One in Four:
Safer Internet day is important to One in Four as our key objective is the prevention of child sex abuse. A growing age group of the sex offenders is the young men, the 18-29-year-olds. For the first time, we have two treatment groups running for offenders.
The number of young men aged 18-25 years who have been referred to One in Four has increased and now comprises almost a quarter of all offenders on our treatment programme.
These young men begin their journey into offending by downloading images of child abuse on the internet. This often begins around puberty. Through using these images they become sexualised to them, then moving on to contact abuse.
The reality is if they are watching these images a real child somewhere is being abused and also most of our offenders will tell us that when they were caught the next step for them would have been to commit a contact offence.
A number of these online offenders move from viewing this material on the internet to actual contact abuse. However only focusing on what viewing this imagery leads to is dangerous in itself. The internet makes it easy to desensitise ourselves from what is happening. When there are sexual imagery and videos of children being shared on the internet it means that these children are being abused. The abuse that is happening to them is very real.
“We don’t use the term child pornography because that implies some sort of validity to it. It is downloading images to watch children being sexually abused"
Safer Internet Day is working to promote online safety for everyone. It is important to teach ourselves and our children about the repercussions of one's actions online. It is essential to learn how to use the internet safely. As a digital age society, it is important to consider how we support young people to develop healthy notions of sex based on consensual sexual intimacy.
Initiated under the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme and now continuing under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) which funds Safer Internet Centres in the member states, the day marks an annual opportunity to engage in making the internet a safer and better place for our children and young people.