The sexual abuse of a child can only happen in secrecy and if the child is silenced.  For many children, that silencing is maintained by imbuing the child with an intense feeling of self- shame.  The child will be instilled with the belief  that it is something intrinsic to them personally that causes the sex offender to abuse them.  This leads to feelings of self-hatred, of being contaminated, of being different to others.  And these feelings will not end in childhood, but continue to infect the survivors view of themselves right into adulthood.  This extreme and toxic self-shame preserves the silence.  Many survivors never tell anybody about their experience in the belief that even their closest partner, family or friends will recoil if they see the repulsive person the survivor believes themselves to really be.

At One in Four we support survivors to break that silence.  At first it is in the intimacy of the therapy room where slowly and painfully the survivor begins to place the shame where it really belongs.  It may also be in supporting clients to name their abuser and seek accountability through the criminal justice system.  We speak for clients in advocating change in legislation and in statutory processes that reflect their needs and are trauma  informed.  

Recently many more survivors have begun to speak publicly about their experience.  This is incredibly powerful in helping the general public, legislators and policy makers to understand the high prevalence of child sexual abuse in Ireland and of the lasting trauma it can cause.  But we must ask ourselves why so many people still feel so uncomfortable about identifying themselves as an abuse survivor.  What is it about us as a society that denies the lived reality of so many of our fellow citizens?  What do we need to do to create a national conversation that recognises  that child sexual abuse is sadly an epidemic affecting up to one in four children?  How can we encourage survivors to let go of the shame and acknowledge the crime that has been committed against them, just as we do with other types of crime?  What type of prevention programmes that have been proved internationally to work can we implement to keep children safe?  Just what do we need to do to stop keeping secrets and to break the silence?

Maeve Lewis


One in Four