April 25, 2012
One in Four warmly welcomes two new pieces of legislation published today. We do not have an effective child protection system in this country. The Criminal Justice Bill and the Children First Bill will for the first time create an obligation to report all concerns about children to the statutory authorities. We commend Minister Fitzgerald and Minister Shatter for introducing this long overdue legislation.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says: “The Reports of the past decade have shown clearly what happens when adults look the other way and do not act to protect children. Thousands of Irish children have been sexually abused in their families, communities and in the Catholic Church and the effects of that abuse have devastated every aspect of their lives. From now on we will all have a duty to make our concerns known”
Maeve Lewis continues” We are worried that survivors might be reluctant to come forward to seek help if total confidentiality cannot be maintained. They fear, often with good reason, the reaction of their families and communities to a disclosure. Balancing the needs of survivors to access services with the need to protect children requires skilled professional intervention. We welcome the fact that reports will only be made to the Gardai if the survivor so wishes. One in Four already works within the Children First Guidelines and in our experience most survivors agree to report allegations to the HSE child protection services because they do not want other children to suffer the same abuse”
Maeve Lewis ends: “The new legislation will only be effective if resources are made available to the statutory agencies and to the non-governmental organisations who support survivors. In these difficult times hard decisions will have to be made. We like to think of ourselves as a society that cherishes our children but the recent revelations have shown this to be false. We now have an opportunity to create a world class child protection system so that Ireland becomes a place where children can grow up safe from sexual harm.”
April 17, 2012
The report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary schools was published last week and has generally been welcomed across all shades of opinion. However to my mind it fails to address a key issue: why is the State not responsible if a child is sexually abused at school?
A couple of years ago a brave woman from Cork called Louise O’Keefe went all the way to the Supreme Court to try to establish that the Department of Education was legally responsible for her sexual abuse by the man who was the principal of her primary school. The Department of Education vigorously defended the case and the Supreme Court found against her. It held that in this instance it was the patron of the school, the Bishop of Cork, who was legally responsible for the conduct of the teachers employed under his patronage.
Now, I’m not a legal person or a learned judge, but it has always seemed to me to be nonsense that the Department which lays down the standards for teacher training, pays their salaries, decides the curriculum and provides inspections of their work should be able to avoid all responsibility when a
teacher sexually abuses a child. Currently over 90% of primary schools are under the patronage of the Catholic Church and I do wonder if bishops, given their track record, are the best people to be responsible for child protection? And even if some schools shift to another patron, be it the VECs or Educate Together, should the Department of Education really be able to hand over such a crucial responsibility?
Louise O’Keefe is currently pursuing her case to the European Court and she has my absolute support. But it makes me angry that one courageous woman should have to risk everything, including her home, so that the Irish state be made to face an essential obligation of democratic governance: ensuring the safety of the nation’s children.
April 4, 2012
Here at One in Four we are all looking forward to Easter. We’re closed for four days and our overworked staff are ready for a good break. All sorts of plans are afoot to get away or to stay at home, to hang out with friends and family.
But we need to spare a thought for the many people who dread weekends like this. I’m thinking of the people who were sexually abused as children and who are continuing to deal with the effects of that. One casualty of abuse can be relationships with family members especially if the abuse was in the family. For people in this position times like Christmas and Easter can be lonely and grim. Everybody else seems to have family plans and abuse survivors can feel isolated and different. Every family has its strains and its dysfunctions, but this may be exacerbated where there has been abuse. This can make it impossible for survivors to remain in contact with their family.
One in four Irish people have been sexually abused so we are talking about an awful lot of people who may be feeling sad and excluded this weekend.
April 3, 2012
MACSAS, a UK-based organisation for survivors of clerical sexual abuse are conducting a survey of people who have been affected by such abuse. Full details of the survey are available at http://www.macsas.org.uk/
The deadline for completing the survey has been extended to April 30th.
March 29, 2012
Over the past year we have developed a new service at One in Four. Most of the people who come to us have been sexually abused within their families – by a father, brother, uncle, grandfather and sometimes by a female relative. If the offender is still alive, the survivor is often very concerned about the safety of other children in the family. The man who abused his own children might now have access to grandchildren, the abusive uncle might be targeting a whole new generation of children. This means that the survivor has to disclose their abuse to family members and this can cause a huge disturbance in the family.
Some family members immediately believe and support the survivor but others cannot accept what has happened and reject the survivor. Some of course may have been abused themselves. The family really needs support at this time.
In this type of situation we offer to meet with all the members of the family who wish to come. This sometimes will include the offender but most often not. We have a series of meetings to explore the impact of the disclosure of abuse on each family member and to allow the survivor to describe the effect the abuse has had on him or her. It also allows the family the chance to begin to understand how sexual abuse happens in families, what are the factors in their particular family that enabled the abuser. Most importantly, it helps the family to understand what must happen if other children are to be kept safe.
Last year we helped over 53 families and the demand is growing. The feedback has been very positive from survivors and from families. By giving people the space to talk to each other and by empowering them with information, real change can happen and the next generation is protected
from sexual harm.