The Kavanagh Sisters Podcast

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When Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) got in touch with us some months ago and told us their waiting list was currently 5 years long, we were, as you can imagine, horrified. To think, any child who discloses they have been sexually abused are denied immediate help and support, is, and should be, shocking and abhorrent to everyone.  These are children ranging in ages from 3 to 12 years old.

Ireland has a history of failing to protect our children, yet we continue to stand by and watch those in positions of power, demonstrate that they have learnt nothing from the past.  These same officials are seen delivering apologies to victims’ way after the damage is done, followed closely with empty promises that they must not let the same thing happen again.  They have no difficulty finding millions to support war-torn Ukrainians, all the while ignoring the war being waged on innocent children in their own homes.

How could we not get involved?

Explaining that early intervention is vital to save a child victim of sexual abuse living a life filled with pain and suffering shouldn’t be necessary.  All we can do is tell you what we feel would have been different for us if organisations like CARI were around and accessible when we were children.

Back then, they couldn’t have stopped the abuse, but they could have helped us understand its impacts, and why our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours were so damaging to ourselves and those around us as a direct result of the abuse.

One of the most important things we have come to understand as survivors of abuse, are the tools or techniques we used as children to survive the abuse, and the fact that using those techniques didn’t stop when the sexual abuse ended.  In fact, they became more complex and embedded in our personalities.

Because we were still mentally and physically developing, our response to the abuse was instinctual, borne out of fear and altering how we viewed ourselves and the world forever. These changes to our personalities had the potential to destroy us and became the very things that made moving forward almost impossible.

Disassociation is how we avoided feeling the full impacts of being raped. Although we each experienced dissociation, there were some experiences that were unique to each of us. June describes on a few occasions how the trauma was so overwhelming she would leave her body, describing floating over herself looking down on what was happening. Joyce would pick a spot on the wall and focus on that. Paula describes sitting in a darkened room in her mind until the abuse was over.

Disassociation helped us to not spend every waking moment thinking about the abuse. It forced us to live in the present. It wasn’t denial, but a coping mechanism. The past was painful, the future was fearful, so staying present gave us a form of escape from our feelings and protected us from going mad.

Disassociation numbed all our feelings, good and bad. Because the abuse happened around the age of 3-4 and went on for over a decade for each of us, dissociation became a way of being.  After the abuse ended, it was our norm, causing all sorts of relational issues and so, what saved us as children nearly destroyed us as adults.  If someone had explained to us the lasting damage that this particular technique does, and that the danger was over, and it was safe to leg go, how different our lives could have been.

Compartmentalisation describes how we stored the memories of our abuse. Because the levels of trauma involved were so great, the memories seemed to fragment and get stored in different parts of our minds. It was the body's way of protecting us, sadly later in life this made uncovering the whole truth about what happened to us extremely difficult.  The age we were abused, and the details of the abuse were frustratingly difficult to recall. This is also why victims of abuse make really bad witnesses in court. They may recall only portions of memories and doubt themselves and think they are going mad.

Because we didn’t receive love and support as children and the fact that of our two main caregivers, our mother was emotionally unavailable, and our father sexually abused us, it was a natural progression for each of us to develop problems with making attachments. Attachment disorders developed causing each of us to struggle with trust and we were even unable to trust ourselves. We had no experience of what love looked or felt like and this made relationships very difficult.   There is just no way to avoid issues with sex and sexuality after sexual abuse. We suffered deeply with a lack of self-worth and self-hatred leading to long periods of depression and suicidal ideation.

In our experience, we did more damage with our warped views of ourselves and the world long after the abuse ended. If these thoughts and beliefs had been interrupted or challenged as children, who knows where our lives would have gone. But without support or help this became our truth as adults, the cycle continued to be passed down until we went seeking the answers ourselves.

 These are just a few or the many conditions and disorder we developed as a result of being abused as children.  What we needed as children was someone to tell us we were innocent, we did nothing wrong, we were victims, and it was our father that had done wrong.

It is an absolute disgrace that thirty odd years after our case was in the courts we are still fighting for the protection of children. We believe it is imperative that a child who discloses sexual abuse be told how brave they are, that they did nothing wrong, that this should never have happened to them and that they are loved and will be protected.

It is not rocket science. Children shouldn’t have to wait until they have messed up their lives to receive help. A child needs love. If after being abused, a child is left with only their own thoughts and underdeveloped emotional intelligence, there will not be a good outcome. People are so uncomfortable with this topic, and they just want it to go away. “It is not going away until we change how we respond to this crime.”

“It is not going away until we change

how we respond to this crime.”

Our government’s response to not protecting children must be challenged. We must speak out if we are to ever see our children heal and grow into healthy, happy adults. They can’t do it without our help, so stand up, speak out, demand better because our children deserve better than this.

Episode 40 - Coming Out the Other End!

March 15th, 2022

Welcome back everyone to our first podcast in almost 2 years.  As life is returning to some semblance of normality, we felt it was time to ease back into our work. The reason we stood back from social media for so long was purely about self-preservation.  We all realised quickly into the pandemic, that we were each feeling triggered by all the restrictions that were in place and so, to protect ourselves and our mental health, we felt social media, podcasts and our website was too difficult for us to manage as we each retreated into our own form of survival mode. 

Because the pandemic had such an impact on us, we decided we would use our first podcast to share our experience of covid with you in the hope you might find it helpful. Because although no one on this planet has not been impacted by covid to varying degrees, we believe victims of childhood sexual abuse would have found covid and all the restrictions particularly triggering but may not make the connection to their abuse.

It’s important to know you are not alone and what you feel is ok and completely normal.  We welcome all feedback or suggestions on topics you would like us to cover in the coming months.

Take Care 

Joyce, June & Paula xxx


Episode 39 - Jeffery Epstein : Filthy Rich

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

 In this week’s podcast (episode 39) we will once again be joined by Leona O’Callaghan, founder of Haven Hub and Sophia Murphy both survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

We will talk about our reactions to the four-part Netflix docu-series - Jeffery Epstein: Filthy Rich and how we feel he managed to evade the authorities while sexually abusing and trafficking hundreds of young girls with the assistance of his companion Ghislaine Maxwell.

Today Thursday the 2nd July we hear how Ghislaine Maxwell has been arrested by the FBI and look forward to watching just how her case is managed. Will she be given a lighter sentence or even handled differently through the legal system? Will she name others involved or get to make a plea deal to evade any jail time at all? We certainly think a lot of powerful rich men will be having many uncomfortable nights moving forward.

In the podcast we talk about how difficult it is for everyone to understand these particular victims of abuse. Especially those that return to the abuser time and time again. We discuss how even us as victims of abuse have struggled to explain just how this can happen and the difficulty in understanding and explaining the whole grooming process and how prolific abusers manage to select the vulnerable and normalise what they are doing, all the while surrounded by others that knowingly shield them from the authorities and take part in the abuse themselves.

It is vital that we understand how victims can feel complicit and even responsible for the abuse they suffer at the hands of these men. We need to explore the many reasons why these men are allowed to continually abuse young vulnerable girls and how societies turning a blind eye is not good enough.


Take care

Joyce, June and Paula

Episode 38 - Surviving Covid19 - Leona O’Callaghan, Sophia Murphy, Joyce, June & Paula Kavanagh

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

In today’s podcast (episode 38) we are joined by Sophia Murphy, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and Leona O Callaghan, founder of Haven Hub and also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Our conversations centre around how we each found that Covid19 restrictions triggered our childhood trauma. We talk about our increasing struggle to maintain the façade of coping well around friends and family the longer the restrictions were in place, and very importantly, we now realise as a result of our talk that we were getting a glimpse of how we coped as children.

We discuss how the daily and sometimes hourly announcements of the national and global death toll that was churned out on all media platforms completely traumatised everyone but in particular, the most vulnerable and how we see evidence all-around of the fear that has been instilled in particular cohorts of society. The government must be aware this approach is seriously damaging when it comes to the general public’s mental health.

Our elevated anxiety meant we each fell into old thought patterns and behaviours (not always consciously) along with a growing awareness and admiration of the strength it took as children to live in that constant state of fear and anxiety.

We hope these discussions help other victims of abuse and trauma recognise the connection between their abuse and the loss of autonomy through the Covid restrictions. It is important that you look after yourself and know that what you are experiencing is as a direct result of your past trauma.

On a positive note, this is an opportunity to look back and heal old wounds, to forgive and be gentle with yourself now you can see clearly the strength and courage of mind and body you had as a child not only because of the abuse but also keeping it a secret.

 Take care

Joyce, June and Paula 

Episode 37 - Maggie Oliver former Detective Constable in the GMP and Whistleblower in the Rochdale Scandal

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

In todays’ podcast we talk to Maggie Oliver who is best known as the former Detective Constable in the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) who was the lead investigator and whistleblower in the Rochdale Sexual Abuse Scandal.

While in the GMP, Maggie worked on two major child sex trafficking operations, Operation Augusta and later Operation Spam (more commonly known as the Rochdale Scandal). 

In the Rochdale operation 9 men were prosecuted for the sexual abuse and trafficking of teenage girls by mainly men of Pakistani background. Maggie claims that these convictions have barely scratched the surface of this highly organised crime group that numbers hundreds of perpetrators and countless young victims.

It was whilst working these cases she witnessed the continuous failures of Senior Officers to record the children’s allegations, to prosecute the serial offenders or to even protect these young victims.

In 2012 Maggie was forced to leave the police force in order to speak out publicly and expose this long-standing gross criminal neglect. Maggie was the first ever police officer to do this, she was very aware that her actions could lead to her arrest and incarceration.

In 2017 Maggie featured in the BBC Documentary ‘The Betrayed Girls’, along with working as a programme consultant on a BAFTA Award Winning BBC Drama called ‘Three Girls’ that was watched by over 9 million viewers in May of the same year.

Maggie is a regular guest on ITV’s Loose Women’ where back in 2016 she started the Never Too Late To Tell’ campaign to encourage all survivors of sexual assault to speak out.  Maggie also appeared in ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2018 -the year of the women hoping to share her message to a wider audience.

Maggie’s more recent endeavours has led to her setting up a charity called ‘The Maggie Oliver Foundation’ to provide support to survivors of sexual abuse and help them move on with their lives.  Maggie has also just published her own book ‘Survivors: My Fight to Expose the Rochdale Grooming Scandal’  that tells the story of a woman brave enough to speak out and a group of girls who found the strength to fight for justice after having their lives completely shattered by their abusers; together they show in shocking detail why this must never happen again.

Maggie says that she is just an ordinary woman trying to do the right thing by these young children that have and continue to be let down by the state. In our opinion Maggie is certainly not an ordinary woman, but a brave, honest, determined woman that won’t give up until she gets justice for the tens of thousands of victims of sexually abused children.








Episode 36 - Dr. Joanne Nelson -Consultant Paediatrician, Medical Forensic Examiner & Clinical Director The Child & Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service, Galway

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

In today’s podcast (episode 36) we will be talking to Dr Joanne Nelson a Consultant Paediatrician in University Hospital Galway, a medical forensic examiner in child sexual assault cases and the Clinical Director of the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service in Galway

A Belfast woman, Joanne moved to Galway in 2008 where she was shocked to discover that there were no local child sexual assault units.  She could not understand why the services were either not there or not accessible and she felt that children had no voice and so she wanted to change that.  She was instrumental in setting up a city-based Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (CASATS) in 2011 offering a 24-hour service to children in west and mid-west.

In 2018 Joanne was one of the specialists involved in the development of the National Guidelines on Referral and Forensic Clinical Examination Following Rape and Sexual Assault (Ireland).

Joanne speaks in detail about what a medical forensic examination is and process of how pre-verbal children are assessed medically following an allegation of sexual abuse. She outlines her hopes for the future and the importance of offering a gold standard treatment in medical forensic examinations across the island of Ireland. She also outlines the need for a 24-hour call service because to date only Galway offer afterhours services and how a child sexually presenting with sexual abuse cannot access a service if the abuse happens after normal working hours.

Joanne most recent research publication into Child Abuse and Neglect; is 'Variability in Child Protection Medical Evaluations of Suspected Physical Abuse in Four European Countries: A Vignette Study', outlines a number of key messages for practitioners to improve child services.

Take Care

Joyce, June and Paula

Read more (link below) about the full range of treatments & assessments undertaking in a forensic medical examination and the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service in Ireland.


Audio of Blog - Triggered by Paula Kavanagh

In the past few weeks, I realised that the coping mechanisms I used as a child to survive my abuse were being triggered in response to the corona virus and the lockdown restrictions. Growing up I really struggled with anxiety that often manifested in anger. I hated not having any control over my life, and today, I find myself right back were it all began. The more the government continues to increase the restrictions that curtail my movements, interactions, and relationships, the more my resentment grows.

You may think that I should not be taking it so personal as the government are ‘supposedly’ only looking out for me. It’s just the only other time someone was supposed to be ‘looking out for me’ was when I was a child and my father exerted similar measures in order to control me, granting him the freedom to regularly rape and abuse me.

The daily onslaught of death notices and reminders to stay inside, only serve to further frighten and confuse me. The more I listen to the various experts on both sides of the fence, the worse I feel. So here is why I think my childhood anxiety/trauma has come to the surface again.  

If I were to write a step by step guidebook on how to groom a child for abuse, it would be similar to what is happening with the covid crisis.


ABUSE: After telling the child you care about them, begin slowly introducing fear into the child’s life. At the same time introduce rules that must be followed; small rules to begin with that will help you gauge how compliant the child is.

COVID – The government reassured us on how we will get through this if we all work together, consistently reminding us of the severity of the consequences (instilling fear) if we do not wash hands, coughing into our sleeve, and stay away from others.


ABUSE: Increase the fear gradually over time and introduce more rules that must be followed. This will ensure the child will keep your secret and feel it is for their own good. If done correctly – this will be followed without question.

COVID – Government daily death counts, reminders of the rules and consequences for us all if not followed. Increasing the restrictions gradually – introduce more things to fear- objects, surfaces – widen the group to stay away from and include those most vulnerable (elderly, sick).


ABUSE: While continuing to increase the fear, introduce catastrophic consequences for telling your secret. Make them responsible for others – (if you tell anyone, your mother will leave; your brothers and sisters will be taken into care). This will ensure the child feels responsible for the safety of others instilling a sense of guilt and fear.

COVID – Push the need to use hand sanitisers, wear masks and gloves. This will make sure you understand that it’s your responsibility to protect others, if you don’t you could kill someone you love.  Increased isolation for everyone making it against the rules to visit loved ones especially those that need support like elderly parents and those suffering or dying with an illness.


ABUSE: Assert your opinions on the child. Insist you are the only one that will tell them the truth, everyone else will only lie to them. Convince them that you are the only one that can protect and care for them. Keep up the fear levels warning that outside the home is unsafe.  

COVID – Maintain daily bulletins, announce deaths while showing images of body bags and communal graves. Denounce other media reports as false or dangerous sources that you should ignore. This is a sure way to make you compliant, afraid, and responsible for everyone.


ABUSE: Undermine the child at every turn, tell them they are stupid, ignorant and know nothing. Criticize their choices and opinions. Maintain control over their movements, activities, and relationships. Let them know that no one is to be trusted but you.

COVID- Take away independence and create dependency through job losses while providing just enough financial aid. This will make people believe that you really do care in case they are wavering. Encourage division asking people to be vigilant and report on their neighbours’ activities – after all its in everyone’s best interest.


ABUSE – Ok collect your diploma – you now have total control over every aspect of the child’s life and the acceptance by the child that this is just how it is.

COVID- Normalise the situation, make it routine, provide small rewards for correct behaviours. Lift restrictions gradually while make it understood that you can take them back if people don’t behave.

A perfect breeding ground for abuse is when an individual is vulnerable, isolated, and totally dependent on someone else for their survival. This will also ensure that the child or adult learns to ignore their natural instincts and will not turn to those they know and love for support. For me, the current crisis makes me feel like I’m right back in my home with my father controlling the narrative. I’m being told to ignore what I’m feeling because after all, aren’t we all in this together. However, after all the years of work I’ve done to reconnect with myself and trust my gut, I refuse to fall into that trap again.

I constantly hear government officials stating that they are the only source I should be going to for information.  This automatically makes me feel uneasy.  I have spent years overcoming my ability to blindly follow and not question what I’m being told. To assume others, know better, understand more and are smarter than me. It took so long to reconnect with my gut feelings and trust myself when something feels wrong.  For me it’s healthy to question what I’m being told. I am no longer willing to ignore what I feel. I have the right to ask questions, to seek answers, to allow for other opinions and viewpoints. To make up my own mind when I have access to all the information, and not just go along because it’s the easier option to avoid conflict.

I now understand the importance of listening to myself. I no longer fear my own instincts, my need to question anything that feels wrong or uncomfortable. I’m not trying to sway anyone to believe one thing or another. I am merely pointing out that regardless of what you believe, questioning what is happening around you is the healthiest thing you can do no matter what the outcome.

I am not suggesting that our government is grooming us for their own ends, however, I think it is appalling the way things unfolded. It is clear there was no care, planning or understanding of the effects on the mental health of victims of trauma, their families or those within their communities. Not one centre providing support to victims of trauma, be it rape, incest, or childhood abuse were given additional funding. In fact, all the current services suffered badly due to the inability to fundraise just to keep their doors open. Another thing, that is an utter disgrace given the surge of abuse cases which occurred as a direct result of the lockdown.

So, if like me you have been triggered during this crisis, know that it’s perfectly normal and understandable given our history with trauma. Understanding that the abuse of power in the hands of our abuser was reflected in the steps that this crisis brought, will at least help you make sense of your reactions and emotional responses over the past few months.  It is important that you mind yourself, your mental health and reach out for support to family or friends. I would urge you not to try to go it alone but talk to someone even if it is just the person on the other end of a confidential helpline.

By Paula Kavanagh

Episode 35 - J.P.O’Sullivan – Networks & Communications Manager & Ann Mara- Education Manager (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with the Hospitality Sector) MECPATHS

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

In today’s podcast we will be talking to J.P.O’Sullivan, Network & Communications Manager and Ann Mara, Education Manager for MECPATHS.

MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with the Hospitality Sector) is a social justice project that was established in 2013 as a response to the growing prevalence of Human Trafficking and the exploitation of people for profit, in Ireland.  Human trafficking is a growing activity and a major justice issue.

MECPATHS works in collaboration with private, statutory and non-statutory agencies such as An Garda Síochána and The Department of Justice & Equality to counter Human Trafficking. They deliver anti-trafficking training across the country for frontline professionals working in the areas of health, social work, law-enforcement and immigration.

Between 2009 and 2016, 512 victims of trafficking were identified, in Ireland. 334 of these victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation: 71% were female and 28% were children. The majority of these children were Irish. The Gardaí and those working to support victims believe these figures represent only the very tip of the iceberg of this hidden criminal activity.

It is vital that we all understand exactly what human trafficking is. We need to recognise that human trafficking is happening right here in Ireland and If we ever hope to save those trafficked, there are a number of things that need to happen urgently:

  1. To support victims that come forward or are rescued, specialist training is required for a dedicated person/s in all frontline areas (social workers, nurses, doctors, teachers, service industry staff, etc) in order to understand the complex needs of those individuals.
  2. We all need to understand what signs to look out for and who to report to, even if we only have suspicions or a gut feeling about a possible trafficked person/s.
  3. If you see something, do something!

Take Care

Joyce, June & Paula  

If you suspect a case of Child Trafficking:
In an emergency, always call 999/112 
To report any suspicions, contact your Local Garda Station
To report anonymously, call The Garda Confidential Hotline 1800 666 111 or email

Wise Man - Guided Meditation by June Kavanagh

In this meditation you will go on a journey to meet a wise man that imparts some of his life lessons.

Meditation can be described as a way of focusing your mind on a thought, mantra, or activity and is often used to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally clam states. For us meditation is a way to relax and can be a powerful tool to connect you with your inner peace.

We know that not everyone likes to meditate, and some find it extremely difficult to sit and quite the mind. If you are new to meditation, it is important that you know there is no right or wrong way to meditate. It is as individual as you are, and the duration is totally up to you.

We encourage meditation to help you on your healing journey and to this end we are developing a number of guided meditations, we hope they help you find inner peace. We have found listening to and following a story or adventure helped us take our minds off everyday worries and stresses and can be an easier way to stop your mind wondering.

Guided meditations can also relieve the pressure of trying to clear your mind, allowing you head space away from your everyday life.

 Take care

June Kavanagh

Episode 34- Barbara Scanlon (Spokesperson) & Anna Kavanagh (Founder) Alliance of Birth Mothers Campaigning for Justice (ABC)

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

In today’s podcast (episode 34) we will be talking to Barbara Scanlon (Spokesperson) and Anna Kavanagh (Activist) of Alliance of Birth Mothers Campaigning for Justice.  ABC was established in June 2019 by birth mothers who have difficulties in their engagement with The Child and Family Agency (Tusla), the Gardai and the Family Law Courts. They are now seeking major reforms of Tusla, Family Law Courts and the Gardai.

Barbara and Anna talk opening and honestly about the ongoing difficulty the mothers they represent have, when it comes to anything to do with Tusla. They describe Tuslas complete incompetence and mismanagement of the children in their care. The increased powers that they have been given as a result of covid and how Government Minsters that have been approached by ABC fail to act on the behalf of these mothers regardless of the mounting evidence gathered.

We also discuss the growing difficulties experienced by women that no longer trust rape crisis and domestic violence centres since they have moved under the umbrella of Tusla and who also provides the majority of their funding.

The women speak about how time and time again they speak to mothers who are suicidal because social workers can come and take their children without their permission. The numerous times that mothers are forced by Tusla to hand over children to a parent that is abusing that child regardless of the evidence of that abuse.  They also speak about the rule of in-camera that silences these mothers and the coercion by social workers that make mothers sign their child into care with the threat that if they do not do this voluntarily the social worker will ensure that these mother will not see their child again until the child turns eighteen and no longer under care from Tusla.

This was a disturbing podcast but one that we feel needs to be heard. Tusla is growing in power and influence and they appear to be unaccountable to anyone. The women firmly believe that just like the scandals of the past involving mother and babies home Tusla’s incompetence and mistreatment of children will cost Ireland dearly as these children will never forgive us for turning a blind eye to what is happening.

Take care

Joyce, June and Paula

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