May 11, 2015
Gráinne Lawlor is a Senior Social Worker with the Medicine for the Elderly Department in St Vincent’s University Hospital. She was a volunteer Board member with One In Four for the past 4 years, recently stepping down. The entire staff and Board of One In Four are so grateful for all of the time Gráinne has voluntarily dedicated over the last few years.
Before Gráinne joined the Board, she had crossed paths with One In Four several times through her work with St. Clare's Unit at Temple Street Children's Hospital.
“I had a lot of faith in Maeve [One In Four’s Executive Director], and thought it was something really worthwhile. I had moved away from working directly in Child Protection - I was keen to stay involved in the child protection area. Really, I just thought it was really worthwhile.”
Gráinne immediately saw the importance of the advocacy service, which provides information, practical support, and an opportunity for survivors to explore options in a safe way.
“Things need to be brought to the justice system, that’s a whole other angle, and that’s another huge achievement of One In Four. They recognisethe issues and can support people through the judicial system that is really quite hostile and very difficult to navigate your way through.”
“I’m sure lots of people wouldn’t go through it if they didn’t have the support. To have someone help you through that and keep you informed of your rights. Just to feel that protection and support – it’s very important, particularly if you’re vulnerable.”
Gráinne brought a huge amount of experience to One In Four, including her work with offenders. Child Protection was always her core focus.
“I’d done a bit of work with offenders, in the prisons and in the child protection system with sex offenders. For me it’s the ultimate in child protection.”
“In working in the area of child protection you don’t get to do much preventative work – you do some work directly with the children and the families, but it’s usually after something has happened. Whereas in the Phoenix Programme there’s an opportunity to come at it from the other angle, which really feels crucial. I think that’s one of the most valuable aspects of One In Four.”
“Like in medicine, you can keep treating the symptoms or you can try and get in where the problems are arising, and that’s where they’re starting. When someone experiences abuse the blame is with the perpetrator, and if you can get to the perpetrator and try and intervene with what they’re doing and break that cycle or break that pattern – you have a big chance of doing some preventative work. For me it’s very, very difficult work but it’s crucial. It’s a pity more resources don’t go in to it.”
Gráinne contributed so much during her time with One In Four, but made the difficult decision to step down due to time commitments.
“A lot of the issues were around funding. The big thing that always held it back was the money – and that became increasingly the focus.”
“There’s still an awful lot to do.”
May 5, 2015
“Imagine being crushed in a car crash.” This may seem like an unusual way to describe sexual abuse. But that’s how James* describes his experience.
He goes on to explain that the counselling he received was life-saving. Like rehabilitation allowing him to walk again. James says that counselling gave him support even when he felt that his life was a crumbling mess. Even when he wasn’t sure his hard work and effort were worth it.
James talks about One In Four: “They provide hope, encouragement, truth and reality.”
“They treat a person with a detrimental yet invisible, life threatening condition and have compassion whilst doing that.”
James – and so many survivors of sexual abuse – thank One In Four each year, but really it’s your support that make it all possible.
“I find that I am beginning to come to terms with my abuse…”
“There was a stage that I could not speak about my abuse without turmoil and emotions stirring up in my body and mind. I can now express my contempt and hatred for my abuser in the form of words, rather than through physical violence and aggression.”
“It has taken me over 18 months to be able to look at my own situation in a positive light rather than the negative one I had been fuelling my anger and aggression with.”
“I am seeing images in my head on a minute by minute basis (like a film clip caught in a loop). For a long time these images have taken control of my life.”
Without your donations and support each and every day, we would not be able to give James the help that changed his life.
“I am here now after 40 years of inner torment. It’s not easy. I know now it wasn’t my fault. I have some very dark days. But they are not all dark. One in Four is so safe. I can bare my soul without judgement.”
“Maybe someday I will make more peace with myself.”
*Some of the names and images in our newsletters are fictionalised, but the quotes and stories are all real. Confidentiality is so important at One In Four and we only share details if we have the permission of those involved.
April 16, 2015
Where there is a victim there is a community. And for most individuals that community is our family.
When a victim has been groomed by an offender they are told that they are not wanted in their family - their family would not believe them - so they lose all belief that their family will be there for them. This is why it is so important to break this distortion – so important for the family to believe them, take care of them and reassure them it was not their fault.
For families, when a disclosure occurs, the impact is traumatic for them.
They have so much to contend with but mostly the complete devastation for their loved ones. They are not always able to express this and their response may be How? When? Where? Why did you not tell me?
They also have to deal with what their extended families and friends may say of them: What kind of parent lets this happen? You should be ashamed of yourself.
They may lose their friends who do not know what to say. Or they may withdraw from their friends as they are so ashamed they did not know what was happening in their home.
In the cases of intrafamilial abuse - where one family member offends against another - this adds to the trauma. What will family and friends do if they know our son, husband or other family member has offended against one of their family member? We will be burnt out, we will be attacked, our loved ones will be harmed.
For many families the dilemma of ‘Sophie’s Choice’ - who will I choose or how can I chose especially if it is one sibling against another?
The hope is that we love and want the best for our children and want to include and love them. Yet when abuse occurs families feel they cannot show their love for the individual who has offended and all society want is for the family to throw them out and never let them back.
The Support programme delivered by One in Four is aimed at supporting individuals who have been indirectly impacted by the disclosure by a family member or a friend of childhood sexual abuse.
For many individuals who have been indirectly impacted by sexual violence (such as the parent or significant others in a victim’s life) it can be difficult to know how to support the individual.
For many of the support individuals who attend, engagement with the support programme at One in Four is their first experience of therapeutic support. Given the dynamics of supporting a loved one who has experienced sexual violence in childhood, it is also often their first experience of speaking about the impact on themselves.
For professionals working in the area of sexual abuse this is a skill most of us have learnt. However for family members or friends who have not been trained to manage this information this can be very overwhelming. The fear of saying the wrong thing and upsetting an individual who is already traumatised can be very daunting.
For a family, everyone is impacted and how they manage the trauma of the disclosure for themselves is very important. This begins with opening up in a safe space to talk about the impact and the total devastation.
Eileen Finnegan, Clinical Director
April 2, 2015
Our waiting list for counselling at One in Four is closed and has been for eight weeks now. Last year we had to close the list too, for four months.
We absolutely hate having to do this.
When a survivor of sexual abuse plucks up the courage to pick up the phone and reach out for help, it should be available to them immediately. Often it is the first time they have disclosed to anybody, even close relatives, that they were abused. Sometimes it is a crisis in their lives that prompts them to contact us. For other people the burden of carrying the trauma of sexual abuse has become too much and they are considering taking their own lives.
We know of at least three people on our waiting list who have died over the past four years because we were unable to meet them when they phoned. We will never know if we had been able to offer them an appointment when they called if could their lives might have been saved.
Why do we close the waiting list?
If we just keep adding names to the list, people could be waiting up to two years for an appointment. That is in nobody's interest. The bottom line is that the demand for our services is greater than our capacity to provide timely counselling to everybody who needs it.
Survivors of sexual abuse deserve the best possible quality services, so we employ highly skilled and experienced counsellors. We receive almost no government funding for counselling, and are dependent on donations and fundraising. We simply cannot afford to employ the number of counsellors we need.
Sexual abuse in childhood is devastating, and its effects are felt throughout a person's life. When a survivor enters our counselling programme, they are supported to face the pain and trauma, and to understand how the sexual abuse has influenced their life. This creates a freedom to begin to make positive choices. The survivor can grow to become the person they truly are.
It is absolutely unacceptable that so many people are denied the chance to transform their lives because we are unable to meet them when they need us.
If you would like to help then please make a donation here: http://www.oneinfour.ie/help-us/ or by post to 2 Holles Street, Dublin 2
March 23, 2015
When the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse began its work, hundreds of adults who had grown up in the care of the State gave evidence about their experiences in the residential institutions.A horrifying story began to emerge, as witness after witness gave consistent, compelling accounts of emotional and physical abuse, sexual abuse, cruelty and neglect.
The witnesses spoke on the understanding that the records of their testimony would be destroyed when the final report was published. Many of them had never spoken before about their experiences and some had never told anybody, even wives and husbands, about what they had endured.
Some still carried immense shame and were afraid that their histories could be accessed inappropriately.
Following the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009, Irish people were shocked, saddened and outraged by what the children had endured.
Yet many people were not altogether surprised: this had happened in plain sight.
Irish society had been passively complicit with the horrors that were taking place.
A terrible culture of deference to the Catholic Church and State authorities had ensured their silence. The brave few who had tried to speak out were annihilated. This is why we believe at One in Four that it is imperative that the personal narratives of the survivors should not be destroyed.
While the Ryan Report will stand as an authoritative description of what happened, and contemporaneous media reports and documentaries will still exist, they cannot replace the intensity of the direct, explicit accounts of the survivors.
The documents will be placed in the National Archive and will be closed for 75 years. This seems to me to be a good compromise.
It ensures that when everybody involved is long dead, a new generation of researchers will have access to the truth of one of the darkest episodes of 20th Century Ireland.
It will help generations to come to understand the real nature of Irish society then, and will ensure that the appalling history of our cruelty and indifference to the most vulnerable children can never be forgotten.