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.
March 23, 2012
One thing that has really interested me in the past few years is that senior Catholic Churchmen have continuously apologised for the sexual abuse of children yet the apologies have had very little meaning for the survivors. Why should this be so?
One reason, I think, is that the Catholic leadership still does not really appreciate the full horror of child sexual abuse and the devastation that it causes throughout a person’s life. They just do not grasp the immense pain and suffering that the survivors they meet are going through. Another reason is that most of the apologies are made on behalf of the individual sex offender priests, not on behalf of the institutional Church. The role played by the culture of deference, secrecy and loyalty in facilitating the ongoing abuse of children has never been fully acknowledged. In fact it seems as if the Vatican does not accept at all that it has played a part in perpetuating this culture and many of the Irish Bishops seem to be equally deluded. Finally, survivors are deeply hurt by the actions of some church leaders who sit with them for “pastoral” meetings while at the same time instructing their legal teams to vigorously contest any claims for compensation that a survivor may make. This contradictory approach undermines any possibility of the survivor feeling heard.
If remorse is to be meaningful, it must encompass full knowledge of the harm that has been done together with a commitment to make reparation for that harm. Money alone will never compensate for the devastation of so many lives, but it is the language of money that we recognise in this society. Until the Church leadership grasp these simple points they can apologise until the end of time but it will never resonate with survivors.
March 20, 2012
One in Four says that the Vatican is still not accepting responsibility for its role in creating the culture of purposeful cover-ups of the sexual abuse of children. Responding to the Summary of the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, One in Four says it is disappointing that the Vatican did not use the opportunity to acknowledge that its interventions in the abuse scandal had allowed individual Catholic Church leaders in Ireland to ignore guidelines and to protect the good name of the Church at the expense of the safety of children.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says: “While we welcome the findings of the Visitation that the Irish Church now has good child protection practices in place we feel it is a lost opportunity to address the role played by the Vatican in perpetuating the policy of protecting abusive priests at the expense of children”
Maeve Lewis adds: “ We also welcome the recommendation that the Bishops and Religious Superiors should devote much time to listening to survivors and attending to their needs. In the past year at One in Four we have noticed a hardening of attitude on the part of the church authorities to the question of compensation for survivors. We have had grotesque situations where senior Churchmen meet with survivors, assure them of their remorse for what happened while at the same time are instructing their legal teams to file full defences in relation to civil compensations suits. This only compounds the pain and hurt of survivors. It brings into question the authenticity of the Church’s repentance”
March 13, 2012
At One in Four we have just finished a training course in restorative justice practices. We decided to do the training because so few cases of sexual abuse actually get to a criminal trail and even when they do, the survivor often feels side lined by the trial process. Restorative justice works from a different viewpoint to the criminal justice system. It brings together (usually) the person harmed with his/her family and friends wiht the offender and his /her family. It tries to create a space where the harm done can be acknowledged, where the survivor has the opportunity to describe the impact of the crime on him or her and where agreement can be reached as to what needs to be done to repair the harm.
Restorative justice is currently used in Ireland mainly with less serious crime and primarily with juvenile offenders. Many people think that it is not a suitable way of addressing serious crimes such as sexual abuse but international experience suggests otherwise. For example, there is an incredible documentary called “Facing the Demons” showing the work of Australian Terry O’Connell with the family of a murder victim and those who murdered him and their families.
There is a place for the criminal trial, and it is important that sex offenders should be punished. But the criminal justice system consistently fails survivors. Even in the rare instances where there is a conviction, most survivors do not feel that justice has been done. At One in Four we are optimistic that restorative justice, used either with or as an alternative to the criminal justice system will place the survivor right at the heart of the process. While it won’t change what has happened, it will allow the survivor to tell all the important people in his/her life, and perhaps the offender, exactly what they have suffered. It could also allow the survivor to regain some sense of control over life.
We are beginning to offer this service to our clients, so watch this space.