- By Admin
It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?
It feels at the moment like every day – sometimes more than once a day – the same story breaks, over and over. All that’s ever different is the details, and the details are never all that different. It’s a story old as time: powerful men harassing, bullying and – sometimes – sexually abusing. What’s changed, though, is that those they abused are speaking out now.
The #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, Tom Humphries, the Trump presidency and more. They’ve all contributed to a tipping point, a critical mass. Survivors are standing up, and standing together. What’s important now is that we stand with them. What’s also important is that other survivors – who may be living with trauma that is years or decades old – realise that, first and foremost, help is just a call away.
Ireland is a country with an appalling history of sexual abuse, but we still routinely see judges handing down dispiritingly-short sentences to sex offenders, and it’s depressingly obvious some in the media still haven’t grasped the seriousness of sexual crime. The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report (SAVI) is 15 years old, but it says – among other things – 27% of Irish women and men experience sexual violence in their childhood. One third of Irish women and men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. One in five women and one in 10 men experience sexual assaults as adults and 42% of women experience some form of sexual abuse.
Those figures are shocking, but they date from an age before social media, before a time when pre-teens could access instantly hard-core pornography, before a time when abuse survivors were empowered by others coming forward. We need – as a matter of considerable urgency – an up-to-date picture of sexual violence in Ireland.
We need to introduce mandatory one-on-one treatment for convicted sex offenders and we need urgently to reverse spending cuts to therapy for abuse survivors. We need consent classes in primary schools because we need to build up in children the notion that they own their own minds and bodies. We need to build up in boys the desire to be good and decent men who not only respect girls and women, but who also want to support girls and women as allies and equals.
If you are a survivor of abuse, you’re not alone. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre offers a superb service to anyone in need. They listen with compassion and kindness and without judgement. Beyond that, your priority has to be your own wellbeing. Whatever you do, don’t feel under pressure. Surround yourself with kind people. The last thing you need is “tough love” or victim-blaming. Please, above all else, remember you did no wrong. Be kind to yourself.
It’s overwhelming, yes, but we are at a tipping point. We need now a root-and-branch approach to sexual crime. We need guidance on sentencing. We need to educate our children on consent. We need to educate our politicians that we are serious about sexual crime and they need to fund SAVI II.
A better future starts now. And please, never forget: you did no wrong and you’re not alone.
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Please remember if you have been affected by sexual abuse you can call our National 24-Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888