Welcoming a National Conversation on Sex Offenders
October 21, 2016
One in Four welcomes the “Would You Believe” documentary on sex offenders, “Beyond Redemption?”, broadcast on RTE1 last night.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “This is the beginning of an important national conversation on managing sex offenders in the community”.
Research shows that one in four Irish children are sexually abused but we estimate that fewer than 10% of the perpetrators are ever convicted. This means that there are many people in our communities who pose a risk to children but who will never face a criminal trial. What are we to do with them?
Maeve Lewis continues: “People who sexually abuse children are not aliens. They do not usually fit the stereotype of the dirty old man. They are our family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues. They are often likeable, charming people – that is how they access their victims. I believe that we all have a responsibility to find better ways to deal with sex offenders.”
“At One in Four we provide a sex offender intervention programme to offenders and their families. Most of these men are not facing criminal charges, though we do alert the Gardai and Tusla when they engage with us. All the research shows that good offender programmes are not a soft option but are very effective in reducing re-offending and keeping children safe. We want the Dept. of Justice to put in place similar programmes all over the country.”
We also have a responsibility in our communities to find a way to manage offenders. The Gardai Tusla child protection teams have a role to play, but so does every adult who is concerned about children. Running offenders out of our neighbourhoods is not the answer: they are at their most dangerous when they are driven underground. We know offenders are safest when they have decent accommodation, worthwhile work and social support. We need to look at strategies that have worked in other countries such as the Circles of Support described in the programme.
Maeve Lewis ends: “We cannot pretend that child sexual abuse does not happen as we have shamefully done in the past. We cannot pretend that our approach to sex offenders is working. To do so is putting our children at risk. But if we adopt strategies that have been shown to work in other countries, then we can save a generation of Irish children from the devastation of sexual abuse.”
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