The Kavanagh Sisters Podcast

The Kavanagh Sisters Podcast header image 1

Audio of Blog - 10 Reasons Why Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Don’t Speak Out

I recently read an article in the Irish Mail on Sunday about Joe Devine, who told his wife about his childhood experience of sexual abuse 35 years after it had occurred. He spoke about how he was sexually abused while attending St Augustine’s special needs school and how he feared that his now wife, would not have agreed to marry him if he spoke out earlier.

It is unfortunate that Joe is not alone in his silence.  Although more and more cases of childhood sexual abuse are being reported daily, childhood sexual abuse still remains the most under reported crime across the globe with many victims bringing their experience of sexual abuse with them to the grave.

Who Are the Abusers?

According to Darkness to Light (www.d2l.org) about 90% of children who experience childhood sexual abuse know their abuser and of those molesting a child under six, 50% were family members. Family members also accounted for 23% of those abusing children ages 12 to 17.  It is these very relationships that adds to the difficulty for victims to speak out.

It is also widely recognised that children who are being abused often love and trust the person that is abusing them. The abused child will have undergone a grooming process leaving them confused about exactly what is happening and who is to blame.

The Lasting Impacts of Grooming.

In our book ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse we talk extensively about the process of grooming.  We firmly believe that if you are not aware of how grooming happens, you will never be in a position to keep your child safe.

Grooming occurs in stages and most often happens slowly allowing the abuser to build trust with everyone involved in the child’s life.  The most damaging stage of grooming a child, occurs when the abuser gets the child to touch his/her genitals.  The act of touching the abuser’s genitals changes everything for the child.  It can leave the child believing that not only have they participated in the act, but they may even feel they were responsible for instigating what happened. This leaves the child confused as to whether or not what is happening is abuse. The process of ‘grooming’ will now shape the thoughts and future behaviors of that child.

10 Reasons Not To Tell!

  1. The victim may not understand that what is happening is abuse.

Because grooming occurs over a period of time and the abuse can build slowly.  A child can often feel that what is happening is normal.  They don’t like it, but they don’t feel they have a choice and so feel they have to do what they are told. As they become adults depending on what they used to cope with the abuse they most often can push the memories to the back of their minds and convince themselves it is over now so forget it.

  1. Fear of the abuser.

It is often the case that the abuser threatens the child or another family member. They may threaten that they will get hurt or be removed from their home if they speak out or that no one will believe them. This belief and the fear of the abuser carries into adulthood unless it is interrupted or challenged.

  1. Fear of not being believed and worrying about what people would think of them.

Through the process of demeaning the child, constant taunting and name calling, along with the child feeling dirty and ashamed for the abuse, victims can really struggle to believe they are innocent. Developing a number of social anxieties due to the long-term impacts of trauma can also make telling someone next to impossible.

  1. Feelings of confusion, guilt, shame and responsibility.

Again because of the grooming process the child often takes on the responsibility for the abuse. Developing strong beliefs around personal involvement/collusion or engagement in the act of abuse itself. This is most likely lead to the adult survivor feeling that telling someone would be more like a confession than reporting of a crime and so they remain silent.

  1. Feelings for the abuser.

As most abuse is carried out by someone the child knows, trusts, and in a lot of cases is dependent on they will be very reluctant to speak out.  All children love their parents regardless of how they act. In abuse cases it is often misguided loyalty that can prevent the victim from speaking out. Fear of tearing the family apart, of the family member being physically hurt or sent to prison are all contributing factors that can prevent even the strongest child/adult from speaking out.

  1. Trust Issues.

One of the most damaging impacts of childhood sexual abuse is the struggle victims have in placing their trust in anyone. When the abuser is someone that you were supposed to trust, abuse by that person leaves a lot of confusion and a constant struggle not only to trust others, but more damaging is the inability to trust themselves. This is an area that requires a lot of work to rebuild but can be done gently and over time.

  1. Fear of the consequences.

The fear of who will be impacted by disclosure is usually the biggest concern for victims of childhood sexual abuse. The awareness that the non-abusing parents, siblings, friends etc will all suffer when the abuse is disclosed can prevent victims from ever coming out and telling their story. It is not uncommon for victims to hold their truth until a parent dies so as to lessen the pain they feel they will be inflicting on those they love. The saddest thing is that once the victim remains silent they also take on the responsibility for something they had nothing to do with.

  1. Not having the language to explain what is happening.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse very often lack the capacity to express, understand or build normal ways of expressing their emotions. This can leave victims fearful that even if they decided to tell someone about their abuse, they wouldn’t know how to explain it or even may struggle with gathering full memories. This is due to the manner in which trauma affects the brains development and how memories of abuse are stored in fragments. Understanding that this is perfectly normal and is a result of the abuse will help victims overcome these difficulties and be better able to express their feelings appropriately.

  1. Believing the abuse is temporary and will stop soon.

Often victims of abuse convince themselves that what is happening is temporary even if it carries on for many years. Their need to believe that what is happening will be over soon is a coping mechanism that they develop to survive the immediate abuse. This is why educating your children around the impacts of abuse if vital.

  1. The victim may believe they are being punished for being bad. They may also believe it will stop if they are good.

Victims often believe that there is something inherently wrong with them and that is the reason for the abuse. They may act out, struggle to control their anger and rage which is a direct result of the abuse they are or have suffered. They can take on the negative image of themselves that has been instilled by their abuser, that they are bad and need to be punished. Also, if like me you grew up in the shadow of the catholic church you may have convinced yourself that because God himself didn’t save you that you deserve what you got.

Moving Forward

As an adult it doesn’t become any easier to speak out. Years of pain, buried memories, anger, and mistrust can make the process of speaking out extremely fearful and painful.  I feel it is also important to mention that to tell someone about your abuse does not, and should not, require you to speak publicly about your abuser. Telling someone about your abuse is about You and how best to heal from the abuse you suffered.  Breaking the silence may help you gain an understanding of how your life has been impacted and influenced by the abuse you suffered leaving you free to learn a new way forward that is guilt, shame and pain free.

Paula- 28th January 2018

Audio of Blog - The Importance of Sex Education in Schools

A Bill to prevent schools from using their religious ethos to avoid teaching fact-based and responsible sex relationships education to their pupils, is currently at the second stage of debating before the Dáil.  The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill is designed to prevent denominational schools teaching sex education based on their own views of sexuality and intimacy. This Bill was developed to ensure that all students regardless of their religious backgrounds are provided with an understanding about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues in a non-bias, objective manner. If successful, this Bill will further sever the grip the church once held over family life in Ireland.

Practice what you Preach

One does not have to look too hard to see that while the catholic church where preaching the virtues of chastity, abstinence and celibacy, they themselves, where in large numbers following a different set of rules. Not only have we seen several priests in relationships with members of their congregation, ignoring their own promise of celibacy, but more alarming is the large percentage of priests engaging in the rape and sexual abuse of countless numbers of innocent children.

When I was young the catholic church had a lot of power over our daily lives.  Irish people trusted the church completely and considered them above reproach.  We respected priests and believed they acted as god’s representatives here on earth. For most Irish families it was considered an honour to have a priest in the family. Whatever the priest advised us to do, was done without question. They owned our hospitals and schools, giving them control over our medical care and our education.  This provided the church with the power to rule over every aspect of the general populations lives.

Sex is a Sin

The church intruded self-righteously into every aspect of Irish citizens development with special attention to their sex lives.  They preached that sex was only for procreation, even if married, it was not intended to be enjoyed.  They taught that masturbation was sinful and that your body was something to be ashamed of.

The scars from this form of thinking are still being felt today.  They managed to destroy so many lives through their teachings around sexuality. They made us believe that God apparently didn’t mind us having sex, but we certainly shouldn’t want or enjoy it.

We believed and trusted them. They set us up.  We couldn’t win.  We were destined to live a guilt-ridden existence for feeling something we are hardwired to feel.  It is a perfectly normal human reaction to feel sexual desire.  Even animals have that.  It ensures that life goes on and we don’t become extinct.

Exposed

In recent years, so many sexual abuse crimes committed by members of the church have come to light. It seems that every week there is yet another priest or bishop in the media accused of either committing or covering up sexual abuse against a child. It is incredible to me that it is taking us so long as a nation to break free of the churches misleading guidance and utter brainwashing around our sexuality but most importantly our children’s sexuality.

Conditioning

There are many well-meaning parents out there who are still under the church’s influence, conditioned to believe that early sex education for our children is not a good thing.  The belief is held that teaching children about their bodies and sex will destroy their innocence. That the child’s happiness will somehow be compromised.  Can they not see that the people who initiated this opinion had their own agenda and did not love our children as we do?

I was groomed from birth leading up to full penetrative sexual intercourse at age four. I am not unusual in terms of the age the grooming process can begin. For me there was huge confusion surrounding my abuse because I did not know what sex was and I was never told that no one should touch my private parts. Sex was not something that was ever openly discussed either at home or in school. I had no opportunity to understand what was happening to me.  Because I didn’t know what sex was, I hadn’t the language or understanding to describe even to myself what was happening. This is what we need to consider when we talk about teaching sex education in schools.  Everyone thinks it will never happen to their children, because they would know, they would spot an abuser and stop them getting near their child.  Everyone thinks that, but that’s not the way it works.

Things could have been different

If I had been told in school, through the media or at home that sexual abuse happens, and that if anyone touches your privates or makes you do anything you don’t want to do, it is wrong and that I could tell someone who would help it stop.  If I had been told that if this happens to you, you did nothing wrong and it is not ok, no matter who it is abusing you, my life could have been so different. There is nothing wrong with age appropriate sex education.  It doesn’t damage the child, it protects them.  Ignorance does not equal innocence.

Change is Needed

We have a job ahead of us to attempt to undo the damage to our own sexuality and body shaming which was imposed on us by the catholic church’s teachings so the sooner we get started the better. We need to do this for several reasons, (1) you cannot give what you do not have, and we won’t be able to help the next generation develop a healthy approach to their sexuality if we don’t heal our own wounds first. (2) We need to act now because the church has lost control and the younger generation need some guidance in this area of their lives.  We need to replace the lessons we learned with promoting a positive body image and healthy self-esteem.  We also need to teach a guiltfree approach to accepting themselves for being sexual beings.  Can you imagine?

As the numbers of young suicides continue to grow, it is important that we do not leave our young turning to the internet for answers.  They will be no better off than we were if their education takes place alone in front of a screen. With such easy access to porn we can be sure using this option can only lead to further confusion, self-hatred and pain.  We need to build up our children.  Provide them with the tools they need to navigate this new world we find ourselves in.  Times are changing, and we need to educate ourselves before we do any more damage to our children.

We need to encourage emotional wellbeing in our sons and daughters.  Teach them how to communicate, talk about their feelings.  These life skills will help them work through their issues. Introduce meditation and yoga in the early stages of school, promoting good mental health and a healthy body image.  We need to recognise the gaps that are occurring in our children’s lives and address them.

We will all pay the price of not taking the appropriate actions.  We already are.

June Kavanagh -14th June 2018

Audio of Blog - Why People Continue To Support Donald Trump

To answer the question about why people, continue to support Donald Trump, you would have to try to put yourself in the mindset of his supporters. Whether we like it or not, he is appealing to a lot of people. The questions we really should be asking are who is voting for him and why?
I believe timing is important in terms of Trump being in power at this time in history. I also believe that Barrack Obama’s term in office ironically contributed to Trumps rise to power. Obama’s presidency was perceived by many to be a “game changer.” People of colour and marginalised people everywhere raised their hopes, they believed they would finally be represented politically.
Although Obama did a lot of good during his presidency, I am not sure those changes were felt by the underprivileged. This I believe contributed to a complete sense of hopelessness.
Some might say that Trump was in the right place at the right time.
Racism is another contributing factor in Trumps ability to become the President of America. There is a considerable percentage of racists in America who saw Obama’s presidency as a step too far, so when Trump came along, he was seen as someone that would reclaim control in the White House.
After Obama, people were unsure what was ahead for them, but knew they didn’t want to return to the ‘status quo’ of politics in America. Along came Trump, who didn't speak political jargon, made claims that he was better than all the politicians who have not helped the people. He promised that he cared and could make a brighter future for the squeezed middle classes.
Trump shamelessly promoted himself with passion and arrogantly said he would fight for the people. As he had a so-called track record of being a self-made millionaire and he convinced a number of people that his experience would ensure he succeeded in making life better for the people of America.
He continually told everyone how he understood their problems and he, unlike others that went before him intended to fix everything that was wrong with America. His claims of being fearless, wealthy and that he couldn't be bought along with promising that no one could stop him got him votes. His constant bashing of the media and claims that everyone else was lying (fake news) to the people fed into people’s existing mistrust of all politicians.
Why can’t Trumps supporters see what we see? Trump is a textbook narcissist, incapable of caring about anyone but himself. His decisions are based on his ego and fed by his own insecurities which makes him extremely dangerous.
He is happy to claim full credit for everything. He has no awareness and doesn’t realise or care that he is promoting and inciting hatred and racism. He is incapable of understanding that he is creating a highly volatile and abusive culture that took centuries to overcome. He continues to promote fear and insecurity in his followers. His agenda is completely ego driven. He sees himself as the ultimate power and without a doubt will continue to abuse his position.
Why people voted for Trump may be incomprehensible to many, however, it is not the only country to vote unbelievably for a misogynistic egocentric man. Brazil recently appointed President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right President whose views alongside Trumps would not sit well with most right-minded people.
Why? is the question we should all be focused on getting an answer to. Could part of the reason men like this manage to gain so much power be as the result of not providing equal access and opportunities in education for all?
I believe, what we are witnessing all over the world is a response to inequality. People are tired of feeling powerless, abused by those who are supposed to represent them. There is growing resentment between the haves and the have nots' as the gap gets even wider and the realisation that those in power will never do the right thing. People want change and are looking for real leadership. They are sick of being on no one’s priority list. Seeing daily on social media all they could have but never will.
Social media has provided access to information on the corruption that exists in every corner of our society. This has compounded the hopelessness people already feel. People experience inequality and injustice everywhere they turn along with no hope of a better life for themselves or their family. With poor wages, two tier health system, unaffordable education, unattainable housing, it is getting harder every day to simply survive and it doesn’t seem to matter who comes into power as life for those at the bottom of the ladder doesn’t improve.
It would appear that we are at a tipping point and the upheaval we are witnessing in the world today, has at its core, inequality. There is a cost to us all when just one person isn’t treated fairly. What politicians don’t seem to realise is the urgency in addressing the inequality and the repercussions if they don’t.
I believe greed is the cause of a lot of our problems. It has and continues to result in immoral corrupt power-hungry politicians, elitists who are out of touch with the people on the ground, big pharma, who are prepared to poison us to make money and the heads of industry, making it impossible for people to access what should be basic human rights, like decent homes, good healthcare, education childcare and fair wages.
Politicians only see things through their own filter of privilege and education. This seems to prevent them from really understanding the plight of others. Do they really believe that our homeless children today, are going to grow up well-adjusted contributing, happy productive members of society?
The lessons (and there are lessons in every situation) as far as I can gather, is for the world, not just America, to stop tolerating and accepting corrupt self-serving. Politicians. Maybe a place to start is to put all our politicians on a normal working wage. Remove their entitlement to more than one pension and let them wait like us until they do actually retire before they have access to it. Hold them accountable for their actions and if after an agreed period in the job they do not deliver on promises made have them removed. This would level the playing field. They should have the same access to education, housing, and healthcare as the rest of society. This will help to change how they see the services available to everyone and motivate them to improve them.
Bottom line is, there are real and deadly consequences to inequality. Although I don’t think we can ever rid ourselves of inequality, we should always be striving to.
June Kavanagh - 8th November 2018

Audio of Blog - Does Childhood Sexual Abuse Change Who You Are Forever?

Can you ever be healed from the impacts of childhood sexual abuse? or does childhood sexual abuse become part or your DNA?

It might seem strange to anyone who has not suffered abuse to even ask the question, can you heal from abuse. This is because we live in a society where conditions or ailments can be treated or cured by taking a course of medication.  For those of us who have experienced sexual abuse or childhood trauma, it can often feel like it can never be overcome.

Even when you think that you are doing ‘okay’ and getting on with things, a major event can throw you to such an extent that you feel like your life is falling apart.  That is what happened to me when my mother died. My reaction to her death made me look for answers to the questions I have always held about areas of my life that I felt were unfix-able.

Looking for Answers

I wanted to know why even after all the work I had done on myself and all the knowledge I had around the various impacts of child sexual abuse, I still felt there was something missing that stopped me feeling human. I had always struggled with making lasting connections with people, always found it strange that I was still incapable of feeling empathy and compassion for people on the news in horrendous situations. I could not cry or really feel for others at emotional events like funerals, unless I was completely pissed.

Attachment Disorder and Childhood Sexual Abuse

It was only through a chance conversation with my partner in which she suggested that I should look into attachment disorders that I eventually uncovered the missing answers to my questions.

I had only ever heard of attachment disorders in relation to children and separation from a mother, so I had never made a connection to the possibility of this being related to me as a victim of abuse. This search sent me down the road to uncover information about how the levels of trauma experienced as a child can impact brain development and prevent connections between different parts of the brain happening.  This new information helped me to understand the many conditions and disorders that can develop as a direct result of childhood sexual abuse and even showed me how childhood trauma can and does, alter our very DNA.

Childhood Sexual Abuse Changes the Body and Brain

I found information about the changes that occur in brain chemistry and development as a result of overexposure to trauma in early childhood. How these changes were then linked to long-lasting physical, emotional and mental effects to victims of childhood sexual abuse.  I made so many connections to my own life and how I had long suffered from many physical ailments and in particular pain. I had accepted this as just part of me. This information allowed me to seek out other forms of treatments to help overcome these physical problems.

I discovered that due to the result of these changes in brain chemistry in the brains of  victims of childhood sexual abuse our thinking, feelings and behaviours can be forever altered.

This information was so important to me. I always knew I was different than other children growing up.  Even then, I saw things differently than my peers. I never related to how they felt or even what they were interested in. I always felt different and weird. Armed with this new information I could see and make a connection to how this lack of development in certain parts of my brain impacted how I was in the world and let myself off the hook for something I had no control over.

Overexposure to trauma in childhood is found to impact the development of  the particular part of the brain that controls the intensity of our emotions and helps moderate feelings of fear which are necessary for impulse control.  It helps us to not overreact to certain situations with anger driven by fear  and be able to be rational and think things through which is  a critical area for learning.

Living With The Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

This under-development for me showed up as excessive reactions to even the most mundane task. We each wrote about this in ‘Click, Click’   how in school, the levels of anxiety were overwhelming for us. For me it resulting in me soiling myself if any attention was directed at me. Because I was unable to concentrate, learning for me was a nightmare and resulted in me growing up with the belief that I was stupid and incapable of doing anything.

It is also documented that overexposure to trauma can affect your ability to regulate   emotions and moods, to form attachments, and how you respond to drugs.

For me, this lack of development manifested in all sorts of conditions/disorders, anything from social anxiety to attachment disorders, to suffering from depression and an over dependency on alcohol just so I could engage with others.

Knowledge is Power

So what difference does having this information make to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse? I can honestly say that this information has changed my life. Understanding how my brains development has been impacted allowed me to see the damage that was caused by my abuse. It provides me with answers as to why I think, feel, believe or behave in a particular way.  It stops me judging myself so harshly and from hating myself for something that I had no control over.

When we were writing Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ we wanted to put all the information that helped us in one place. We all feel that if we had access to this information it would have made such a difference to our healing and the length of time it has taken. Our intention is always to help others by sharing our own experiences, what worked for us and how it impacted our lives.

If you accept that your very DNA has been altered due to your experience of abuse you can also accept that knowledge and understanding of just how that occurred will absolutely allow you to find a new way of being in the world. Taking the challenge to journey into your past is not easy, but in my opinion, it is the only way to rid yourself of the damage caused by your abuse.

If you want a really easy talk on how your DNA is impacted by childhood trauma check out Pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris who talks about how ‘trauma affects health across a lifetime’ at a TEDMED – 2014

Or read the study carried out by Dr. Vince Felitti at Kaiser and Dr. Bob Anda called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

Paula – 29th December 2017

Audio of Blog - Victims of Sexual Abuse in Positions of Power

Whenever we have spoken or written about sexual abuse, we have always talked about victims from our own perspective. We have discussed how the numerous psychological impacts of abuse can disempower victims, causing all sorts of conditions and disorders and as a result of those impacts, victims can make some poor choices in their lives.

However, recently I read an article about the appalling and endemic sexual abuse of young boys at one of Dublin’s private colleges Terenure College run by the Carmelite order of priests that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The article spoke about how the young boys turned out by this college, would most likely go on to become captains of industry, top rugby players, political leaders and decision makers for our country.

THE TRUE COST

Some might see the fact that victims of abuse can manage to excel at whatever field they choose and do not let their abuse hold them back,  as a positive.  However,  I believe that we must acknowledge the damage that abuse does to its victims and be willing to explore what happens if victims do not look at, or deal with, their abuse.

The true cost of not understanding exactly how abuse and its impacts are forever ingrained into the personality of an individual is vitally important. We need to be aware that if unaddressed, these impacts will negatively influence the decisions, attitudes and behaviours of victims in whatever role they may find themselves in.

If a victim of abuse fears or chooses not to explore their past, they may do whatever it takes to push or ignore their feelings of anger, self-hatred, rejection, and hurt deep down inside, living in a state of permanent denial. These feelings most likely originated from their experience of powerlessness while being abused.

EXTERNAL APPROVAL

With no real sense of self, a victim who has used his/her career to mask or avoid feeling vulnerable, may go on to gauge their success or failures by the reaction of those around them. They may become overachievers, obsessive in their need to win or climb to the top. They often place excessively harsh demands on themselves, constantly setting unreachable targets ensuring they will always be disappointed. They will continually strive for perfection that does not exist regardless of what area of their life they try to achieve it in.

Overachieving in education or a career path can often lead to what is outwardly perceived as success. Victims may misread their unhealthy obsession with power as drive and ambition.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY

If these victims, then rise to positions of power and control they are likely to develop a narcissistic personality. If they do not acknowledge or deal with their past they can develop an inflated sense of entitlement based on the belief that they, and only they can do anything right. It is also not uncommon for them to be arrogant, domineering and exploitative. This behaviour conflicts with their excessive need for admiration and makes it difficult to maintain relationships in their private or professional lives. However, the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. So, when it comes to making decisions based on what is good for the people, they will undoubtedly make the wrong choices.

For the most part they are too busy playing the game with their peers and looking for approval from their inner circle. For this reason, they will never be able to understand the plight of the new employee, the unemployed, sick, elderly or minority groups, unless they feel they are belonging to one of those groups. It is the groups of people they are currently influenced by that will determine their decisions. They won’t be unduly concerned with the masses but rather with the chosen few that they admire and feel they understand.

They are most likely to pay lip service rather than taking action or making real changes to improve the lives of the people they may represent in whatever position they hold.

Due to the blocking of their own feelings they cannot connect with others pain and suffering. Their focus will be on how to climb higher and how to make connections to improve their lot.

Because of their perceived success, they may question other people’s motivation and even resent others feeling that in their eyes, others have not done enough to better themselves. They may feel that others are lazy or stupid and have no desire to be any better, this leads to resenting that ‘these people’ benefit from their hard work.

DANGERS FOR US ALL

Having a narcissist in a position that influences our lives is dangerous for us all. They are incapable of including emotion in their decisions but instead use logic. These facts or logical conclusions are also skewed, because they use their own filter which is influenced by their own negative life experience. The energy they put into avoiding being triggered emotionally, can ensure they will avoid making decisions that serve anyone other than themselves.

WHO IS PULLING OUR STRINGS?

When I look at this country and how it is currently being run, alongside examining the disastrous decisions that impact the most vulnerable within our society, like the almost 10,000 homeless, the 400 people left waiting on hospital trolleys (26% increase from last year), coupled with the constant under-funding of support services for abuse victims, I can only conclude that we have a number of individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder in positions of power. No one who has the ability to feel empathy for another individual could stand by and not do something about this country’s current situation.

And not to repeat myself, but the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. We must ask ourselves when terrible decisions are being made that impact all our lives, who has the most to gain from making those decision. What could possibly be behind those decisions if not self-serving greed and ambition. What if anything can we as individuals do to change it?

Paula

Audio of Blog - Let’s Call A Spade A Spade

Male Privilege and Just How Dangerous it is to us All

The other night I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘Hello Privilege, It’s Me, Chelsea’ in which Chelsea Handler an American comedian explored what it means to be born with white privilege in America.

While watching the programme I couldn’t help making comparisons with what I see as ‘Male Privilege.’ During the programme it became clear that Chelsea was fighting a losing battle when trying to ask white Americans about how they believed they may have benefited from being white. Time and time again she got met with denial, ignorance and an unwillingness to even entertain there is such a thing as white privilege.

Chelsea also spoke to Tim Wise, an Activist and writer who made the point, that those that benefit the most from privilege don’t have to think about it, because they aren’t the ones with the problems. He also made the point that the flip side of privilege is oppression.

This is exactly what is wrong when trying to address the issues and problems borne from male privilege.  Women are fighting for equality day in day out, but men consistently fail to listen, or see that it is their very privilege that blocks them from understanding just how dangerous this male privilege is and how it has and continues to impact all our lives.

Male privilege is never more apparent than when looking at the sex industry. Earlier tonight, I read a most disturbing piece online by John Whitehead, a Constitutional attorney  – ‘The Essence of Evil: Sex with Children Has Become Big Business in America.’ It is a hard read, but in my opinion a necessary one.  It’s a disturbing account of the extremely lucrative sex trafficking of kids.

In the piece it details the horrendous, disgusting and stomach-churning treatment of trafficked children and how the youngest kids are trained to have oral sex with men. “They’d get you hungry then to train you to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better.” Reading this alone was enough to make me feel enraged at the men who pay to rape these children. Without customers there would be no traffickers and please do not make the mistake in thinking this is an American problem it is a global one with Ireland being right in the mix.

If a man, any man, hands over money to be given access to a child that he then feels entitled to go ahead and rape that child, make no mistake, this is not a business transaction, it is the RAPE of a CHILD.  Why are we not screaming from the rooftops for this to stop, for all those responsible, from the pimps to the entitled men who use children as things they can do whatever they wish to, be held accountable for their disgusting and depraved actions.

Why do we as a society, not view these men who use pimps to gain access to children and young women in the same light as we do paedophiles or rapists.  

Is it because the men who use these pimps and call these numbers are not easily identified?  Or is it that we do not want to accept that they have nothing that makes them stand out from any other man. They could be your father, brother, uncle, friend, son, colleague or neighbour.

Now here’s the thing,  if I was describing a paedophile that description above would be exactly the same, and yet, as a society these men are not condemned, they do not when caught, get put on the sex register, they are not seen by other men in and out of prison in the same light. Their actions are not seen as the actions of a depraved person.

Just what mentality do you have to possess to allows you to pay to rape a child or young woman.  Why don’t they see what they are doing as disgusting and how in some cases do they even brag about using ‘the service’ and share contact details.  This is not any different than someone who rapes their own sister, mother, child or a child of your friend, partner or neighbour.  Having sex paid for or not with anyone who clearly is not in a position to give consent is RAPE.

However, women all getting on board is not ever going to make this stop. Men need to urgently understand and realise that as members of society they have a duty and a responsibility to make the world a safe place for everyone. No one is more important or should have more rights than another. It is this male privilege that allows the   belief or mindset to see someone as less than and that allows those men to act with impunity when it comes to this crime.

Any man that feels its ok to pay for sex, to pay to watch children being raped on the internet, to engage in any form of sexual activity with anyone regardless of their age or gender for money, needs to see the reality of what is happening. Its time we stop allowing our children to be raped by men that feel because they pay, they are somehow not responsible to  that individual.

We need to start holding men to account, its time that men see that visiting sex parlors that are filled with trafficked women and children is not funny and something you have a laugh with the lads about.  Although men might use the excuse to themselves that sex is just a physical act, I can assure you that is not what that child in front of them is feeling. Its time we call a spade a spade. If you engage in paid sex with a child, you are a RAPIST.

Paula Kavanagh

Audio of Blog - How Do Judges Get It So Wrong?

As survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we are hurt, disappointed, shocked and insulted at some of the sentences judges hand down every day for crimes of sexual abuse.  It is staggering that any judge could ever completely suspend a sentence in the case of a sexual predator.

Repeat Offender

On the 25th April 2018, Judge Sean O’Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court stated when referring to the Priest, John Calanan (aged 79) who had plead guilty to sexually abusing three girls, that his breach of trust had been ‘phenomenal’. He went on to say ‘it was clear that Calanan was a serial offender.  However, his decision when passing a sentence was that there was no point in sending Calanan to prison.  He stated that his sentence was based on Calanan’s age, health and the fact that he was attending Gracewell Clinic (a treatment centre for sexual abusers).

Calanan a repeat offender had previously been sentenced to eight years (three suspended) in July 2012 for attempted rape and indecent assault. In April 2015 Calanan received a three-year sentence (one year suspended) for indecently assaulting a girl. In March of 2018 Calanan again received a two-year sentence for indecently assaulting girl.

If Judge O’Donnabhain had any real understanding of sexual crimes and the people who commit them he would know that paedophiles do not retire.  This continued unfair sentencing serves no one. If the perpetrator avoids paying the price of destroying not only the life of the child but their family, friends, relatives and our communities, how can this be justice.

Perpetrator Focused Systems

To the victims of these crimes, it is apparent that all consideration is directed solely toward the perpetrator and in cases of a sexual nature, this does not result in a just or fair outcome.  Victims should always come first.  The system is simply not equipped to handle sexual crimes and it is time for a complete overhaul. The public perception is that Judges appear to hand out random sentences with no apparent rhyme or reason to them.  Transparency and accountability is called for.  It is unhealthy for any individual to hold the amount of power judges appear to have.

Who can victims turn to when it appears that Judges believe that they know and understand all crimes that come before the courts. To victims, the daily media reports around sentencing of sexual crimes would indicate that is not the case. Judges seem to apply the same rational in sentencing across all crimes. This does not work in crimes of a sexual nature and the continuing issues around judges and all those within the legal profession not receiving mandatory specialised training in this field is no longer acceptable.

Our judicial system appears to allow men to rape with impunity and knowingly or not the system has now become part of the problem. It appears to be yet another insurmountable hurdle for victims of these crimes to overcome.

Shocking lack of Understanding

The Irish times reported on a case on May 3rd, 2018, where we believe a complete miscarriage of justice occurred. Justice Patrick McCarthy at the Dublin Central Criminal Court acquitted a man of 21 counts of anally raping his wheelchair-bound stepdaughter. The victim had been abused between 2003 and 2013 when she was aged between eight and 18.

The jury deliberated for only six hours before returning a verdict of not guilty of all 69 counts. The complete lack of understanding around victim psychology and behaviour led to doubt around the perpetrators guilt.  The victim’s inconsistencies in recalling details of her abuse was referred to as an issue.  If the jury had the benefit of hearing from an expert in the field of abuse who could explain the impacts of trauma on victim’s behaviour and recalling memories, they would at least have been armed with an understanding of why there appeared to be inconsistencies in her account.

The stepfather’s barrister also questioned why the young girl did not disclose to the social workers that visited her home on several occasions over a period of five years. Again, the complete lack of understanding by the jury around how victims of abuse carry the responsibility, shame and guilt for what was done to them and how disclosure of this crime often feels more like a confession that a reporting of a crime they would again at least been in possession of accurate information before deciding on this life changing verdict.

Again, this man was released because of poor education about how trauma impacts the lives of victims.

Recommendations

We do not recommend mandatory sentencing for all sex offenders as we believe that all crimes of a sexual nature require an individual approach.  However, consistency in sentencing is important. The sentence should be linked to mandatory treatment for the offender with all privileges including any time off their sentence for ‘good behaviour’ tied in with their level of participation in treatment programmes.

For sentencing to be consistent the judges need to be mandated to adhere to agreed upon guidelines. We feel there is a real need to consider the following:

  • Non-custodial Sentences: It is unacceptable that judges even consider the complete suspension of a sentence of someone who has committed a crime that will leave its victim with a personal life sentence.
  • Concurrent Sentences: This is not a deterrent. A concurrent sentence sends the message that the perpetrator is only paying for one incident or one crime.
  • Poor/Lenient Sentences: For victims of childhood sexual abuse the crime is tantamount to murder. The grooming process which can take weeks months or even years represents premeditation of a crime. Not to sound too dramatic, but the years that the child experiences sexual abuse on a regular basis is no different psychologically to being held captive and tortured. The experience of rape itself causes lifelong problems with sexuality creating untold damage to marriages or any intimate relations for the life of the victim. How can a judge when sentencing someone who has inflicted all this damage on their victims automatically give them a reduction for so called good behaviour or because they plead guilty?
  • Age of Offender: We hear time and time again that the judge thinks that the plaintive is too old and unlikely to reoffend. This clearly demonstrates the complete lake of understanding of these crimes. It sends a clear message to offenders that if their victims don’t speak up before they reach a certain age they will escape having to pay for their crimes. It is widely accepted and understood that the crime of childhood sexual abuse can take its victims many years to speak out and a lifetime to heal from.  This decision once again lays blame on the shoulders of the victim for not speaking out sooner
  • Position Held by Offender: the perpetrators good standing in the community is of no bearing when it comes to this crime. If those within the legal profession understood the most common profile of perpetrators they would understand that they are likely to be middle class males, hold positions of trust within their communities and family orientated. So, taking an offenders position or standing within their community makes no sense whatsoever.

The Need for Strategic Thinking

We have a history of poor investment in Ireland in not only how we treat victims of sexual crimes, but inappropriate funding of vital specialised services for those victims and their families. This along with failing to track and build detailed statistics that would feed into future service planning and investments makes it easier for the government to bury their heads and continue to underfund the current service providers.

The complete lack of strategic thinking and understanding around the magnitude of these crimes will only continue to ensure that we all pay for this crime as it impacts and shapes all our communities.

This crime is not going away and it’s time to wake up and do the right thing.

23rd May 2018 – June

Episode 19 - Will I Always Be Afraid?

'Trigger Warning' if you or someone you know has been affected by sexual abuse please remember the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24-Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888

In today’s podcast (episode 19) ‘Will I Always Be Afraid!’  we will be discussing fear; how it has and continues to impact our lives as a result of our experience of childhood sexual abuse.

For each of us fear has played a significant role throughout our childhoods and continues to act as a barrier even today. It has been driven by a core belief gifted to each of us by our father that we were useless and would never amount to anything without him. This belief we held unconsciously for the better part of our lives and only through awareness and challenging our thoughts, were we finally able to shed some of that pain.

At different times and to different degrees fear has had a crippling effect on us, often preventing us from making the most of opportunities to grow and be happy. However, today what we can say is that even though fear remains in our lives we no longer allow it to stop us making decisions or moving forward.  

We hope by sharing our experience of fear, we can help others know that there is hope. You can overcome your fears if you start by simply becoming aware, you do not have to remain stuck, consumed by fearful thoughts.

Please share and spread the word……

Take care

Joyce, June and Paula

 

Special Episode - Demand for Inquiry into Tusla

We have a lot to be proud of in this country as our actions clearly display our hunger for change, our ability to identify we all have rights and through the use of our voice’s we have brought about change, and put the rights of our citizens first, something our governments have had to be forced to do.  e.g. Abortion, same sex marriage and divorce time scale.

Our willingness to stand together is where the strength lies and once again, we need to do this.  We are not like the generations before us who felt the government knew best or worse still believed they had no choice; we realise by speaking up as an issue is identified means we do not have to pay the consequences later and although in this case we might be too late as they have already created a myriad of damage, however, it does not have to be allowed to continue causing the usual generational damage.

The latest guidelines introduced by TUSLA we feel is the last straw, they are now stating that if a victim accuses someone of abuse the alleged perpetrator has the right to question the accuser.  The guidelines have been set and they are already training social workers to carry this task out. 

Why is it down to us to do this, we may ask, but as we know it is only through us standing together the government are forced into action.  Even now there is seldom a day goes by when we don’t read something about TUSLA’s incompetence, yet they are allowed to carry on.  TUSLA’s remit is in child protection and welfare services, educational and welfare services, psychological services, alternative care, family and locally based community services, early years services and domestic, sexual and gender based violent services.

ABC- (Alliance of Birth Mothers Campaign)

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=181663549862851&id=104822904213583&__tn__=K-R

Mr Pat Rabbitte – Chairperson Tusla

https://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/feedback-and-complaints1/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/alleged-child-abusers-to-be-allowed-interview-complainants-1.4160746

 https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/calling-on-tusla-to-cease-implementation-of-child-abuse-substantiation-procedures?bucket&share=bd873788-c138-44a1-ac37-94714683d8d3&source=facebook-share-email-button&time=1580896288&utm_campaign&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR1z26gjZMt9j0ZFPN3EdD4Srbl815KUWV8ckSnlO8YQSwM47r4HF5YQvII

Episode 18 - Finding Our Own Way

'Trigger Warning' if you or someone you know has been affected by sexual abuse please remember the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24-Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888

In today’s podcast (episode 18) ‘Finding Our Own Way!’  we will be discussing the role the church played in encouraging and maintaining an environment where child sexual abuse was allowed to continue with impunity.

The church's approach to sex and sexuality not only caused immense pain and suffering, but as victims of child sexual abuse, it compounded the shame and self-hatred we already felt.

The shame also encouraged secrecy and silence, and their teachings ensured men and women were treated differently, promoting gender inequality. This managed to create an environment where men became dominant and women submissive.

They preached that natural human desires were sinful. Even married couples were told that they should not engage in sexual intimacy unless it was to procreate. This unnatural state of abstinence only heightened the attraction to sex while ensuring it remained viewed as dirty, disgusting and sinful.

How could anyone feel good about themselves while upholding those beliefs. The destruction to our psyche while constantly having to return to the church seeking forgiveness and praying for the strength to be a good worthy person.

We hope by sharing our experiences we can encourage healthy questioning regardless of your faith, if the message is true it can and should encourage scrutiny.  We feel without challenging our own beliefs we would continue to surfer feeling unworthy without ever really understanding why.

Please share and spread the word……

Take care

Joyce, June and Paula