24 Bealtaine 2009.
SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN.
This blog has had the sad experience of working with victims of abuse. It is very difficult to describe the suffering of people, now in their adult years, who have been subjected to the evils of sexual, physical or emotional abuse while children.
Most of this occurs in the home. The perpetrators of abuse, particularly sexual abuse of children, in the home are usually fathers, grandfathers or uncles or other older family members. One can only imagine the effect this abuse has on a child. Or on other family members, if they get to know about the abuse. Even if they have not been direct victims themselves. In many cases the truth of childhood abuse only emerges when the victims are grown up, sometimes triggered by flashback or some other remembrance. The effect of all this can be devastating and the victims need support, care, understanding and love. Most of all they need to be believed. Especially when, as is often the case, the abuser denies any wrong doing.
Other abusers include people in positions of trust like clerics, teachers, sports coaches or medical staff. In most cases the perpetrators are men, though this is not always the case. The report chronicles the cruelty suffered by children ‘in care’ at the hands of some nuns.
Many experts believe that sexual abuse of children is about control, and manipulation, though most agree that there is some sense of sexual gratification for the abusers. The victim suffers greviously in many unimagineable ways.
They also learn not to trust anyone. This is entirely understandable given that the abusers are usually iconic figures in a childs life. Or authority figures. Many victims of abuse find it very difficult to get other people to listen to them. Or to believe them. This deepens the feeling of isolation, low self esteem and distrust. In these more ‘enlightened’ times with so much consciousness of child abuse society thankfully is more alert to the dangers faced by our children.
However nothing prepared any of us for the awful revelations contained in this week’s Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. Most people are numbed by the detail of appalling cruelty and abuse revealed in this report of the treatment of children in institutionalised care. The report is a shameful tale of abuse against children in institutions over decades. Both the Irish State and Catholic Church are responsible for a litany of crime, beatings, rape, and awful evil conducted by so called holy men and women against the most vulnerable young people in our society.
This blog believes that our concern must be for the survivors of abuse and the memory of those who did not survive. The recommendations of the report must be fully implemented. The Church most accept full responsibility for what occurred. It must pay full compensation to the victims.
This blog has long held the view that the institutionalised Catholic church is undemocratic in many ways. For example women are denied the right to become priests. Church lay members have no say in who their pastors are. Bishops and cardinals are elevated to positions of power and authority for life. Compulsory celibacy is a nonsense and the theology on which it, and other teachings, are based is entirely flawed.
Of course there are good priests and nuns and brothers. But that is not the point. An elitist and unaccountable secretive, male and clerically dominated organisation is by its nature dysfunctional. Especially when much of its credo is based on guilt, social control and suppression. A far cry from the liberating and liberated teachings of Christ.
The Irish establishment also has failed our children. How youngsters were sent by court and other systems, into institutions is, in itself the stuff of nightmares. That may be a thing of the past thanks to the work of brave survivors who lifted the lid on this whole shameful business but the fact is that children are still victims of neglect. They continue to suffer abuse or the danger of abuse.
Child protection services are inadequate. There are not enough social workers or other front line staff in place. In particular after hours social works services are still not in place in the south. The service providers are completely stretched. Even in cases where children could be in danger there are not the resources to make the interventions needed.
We have a lot to do to right this wrong. If we are to really cherish all the children of the nation equally then societal change is needed. A just society needs decency, fairness and equality alongside accountability and transparency. Our children need to be heard. And listened to. And protected.