One in Four says today that new revelations about Cardinal Brady’s role in the Brendan Smith affair require an explanation from the Cardinal. A BBC documentary revealed that the Cardinal had information about other children who were being abused at the time, but failed to act.
The documentary suggests that many children could have been protected from the sexual predator if Cardinal Brady had not been so invested in protecting the Church. Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “It will be heartbreaking for survivors to realise that their suffering could have been avoided if only action had been taken”
Maeve Lewis continues: “While on paper the Church now has good child protection practices, this documentary casts a shadow on the credibility of Cardinal Brady as a leader of the new policy. Although the times were very different then, it is unimaginable that any adult had such knowledge and failed to act”
Maeve Lewis ends “This devastating situation highlights how important it is that legislation is in place to keep children safe. The new Children First Bill and the Withholding Information Bill will, when enacted, prevent such catastrophic failures to keep children safe.”
One in Four today broadly welcomed the Children First Bill in a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. Speaking to TDs and Senators One in Four applauded the introduction of clear, unambiguous legal obligations for statutory and voluntary agencies and for designated professionals to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to the HSE Child Protection Services.
However, One in Four expressed concern that the new legislation did not sufficiently acknowledge the role of agencies and professionals working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and the obligations of the HSE to investigate retrospective allegations. Executive Director Maeve Lewis told the Committee: “The reality is that most children do not tell. They wait until they are grown up and feel safe. But just because the abuse happened years ago does not mean that the sex offender is no longer a danger to children. The man who abused his daughters may now be abusing his grandchildren. The legislation must address this explicitly.”
Maeve Lewis also spoke of the danger of frightening people from coming forward for help. She said: “Survivors are often reluctant to report because they fear, often with good reason, the reactions of family and friends. The last thing anybody wants is to deny survivors access to services and silence them further. Resources must be put in place to provide skilled professional support to help people consider the implications of disclosing and while making a report”.
One in Four estimates that only 10% of the notifications we make to the HSE child protection services are examined. Maeve Lewis continues: “If this legislation is to be effective, resources will have to be put in place to ensure that all substantial allegations are investigated. Despite the harsh economic environment, choices need to be made if we are serious about protecting children. Otherwise the legislation is pointless”.
Maeve Lewis ended: “ In the past children were abused and tortured in plain sight because adults turned away and did not act. The Children First legislation will help to foster a culture where it becomes the responsibility of all adults to ensure that all children are safe.”
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.”
Maeve Lewis, Executive Director of One In Four gives a summary of the 2010 Annual Report.
At the launch of its Annual Report for 2010 today One in Four announced that demand for its services remains very high. A total of 931 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse attended One in Four in 2010. In addition, 21 sex offenders were treated on the sex offender treatment programme and 23 families affected by sexual violence were supported.
182 clients attended for individual and group counselling. Most people (48%) were abused in their families, 27% in the Catholic Church and 34% by family friends, neighbours and professionals. Only 2% had been abused by a stranger.
The biggest demand was for the advocacy support programme, with 749 people seeking help in contacting the Gardai, reporting a child protection concern to the HSE, or attending a criminal trial. 45% of advocacy clients were abused in the Catholic Church and 17% within their families.
The PhoenixSex Offender Treatment Programme worked with 21 men during 2010. 52% had abused children in their own families.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says: “At One in Four we understand the horrendous pain that lies behind the statistics. We know that the effects of sexual abuse reverberate throughout a person’s life. That is why we make the protection of children a priority.”
“Our clients tell us about the people who sexually abused them. This is a very complex issue. We have to balance the needs of vulnerable and distressed adults who have reached out for help against the real possibility that the person who sexually abused them is currently abusing other children. We believe this information must be passed to the child protection services if we are honestly to intervene in the cycle of abuse.”
“At One in four we have developed a model that aims to protect the wellbeing of the survivor while ensuring that children are safe. Clients, especially those abused within their families, are often very frightened about the implications of reporting.”
“We will work with the person over a period of time so that they feel supported to make that call to the HSE. We also provide support to their families, helping them to deal with the bombshell of a sexual abuse disclosure. We can also offer treatment to the sex offender. And if the survivor wishes to make a complaint to the Gardai we will help them with this.”
“We can only operate this model with the backup of the statutory services. Working in this way ensures that the fear is taken out of reporting. This model has the potential to be used nationwide, but it requires cooperation between services and adequate resourcing.”
Maeve Lewis ends: “We have seen the dreadful consequences of secrecy in cases of sexual abuse. This is a very positive time for child protection, with a Government committed to finally putting in place robust child protection measures. We are looking at a cultural shift where it will be the responsibility of every Irish adult to act if they are aware of a child who is being abused. We have the opportunity to create a workable, effective system in which the needs of victims and the protection of children are both attended to. This will only happen if all organisations can work together with the statutory services to create a society where children are safe from sexual abuse”
One in Four is deeply disappointed with the Vatican response to the Cloyne Report. While we are pleased with the statements of remorse and shame, we believe the response does not address in any way the serious concerns raised in the Cloyne Report.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “This response is a familiar reaction on the part of the Vatican. It takes no responsibility for the role of the Vatican in creating a culture where secrecy and cover-ups were routinely used to maintain the reputation of the Church while placing children at continued risk of sexual abuse. In the document, the Vatican represents itself as having been misunderstood and misinterpreted by the Irish Church. This is not borne out by the facts uncovered by the Cloyne Inquiry.”
We welcome Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to stand over his Dail statement. We believe that in that speech he articulated the feelings and views of the Irish people and brought solace to survivors. The Vatican is completely out of touch with public outrage here regarding the ongoing revelations of Church management of child abuse. We hope the Taoiseach will not be deflected from this stance by the requirements of diplomatic posturing.
Maeve Lewis ends: “Survivors of clerical abuse will be angry and frustrated but not surprised by this latest contribution from the Vatican”.