Refusal to confront scale of child abuse
The renewed fleeting panic over child sex abuse, following on the revelation that the Gardaí ignored representations from the Austrian police authorities about Irish subscribers to a child pornography site, is yet the latest illustration of denial of the scale of child sex abuse here.
The scale of child sex abuse – and adult sex abuse – has never been acknowledged by the State or any of the main parties, although the State funded an authoritative research survey into this phenomenon in 2002. This was the SAVI survey (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland survey) conducted by he Royal College of Surgeons, on behalf of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
This survey showed that one in five women (20.4 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood with a further one in ten (10.0 per cent) reporting non-contact sexual abuse. It reported: “In over a quarter of cases of contact abuse (ie 5.6 per cent of all girls), the abuse involved penetrative sex – either vaginal, anal or oral sex”.
With regard to boys the survey reported: “One in six men (16.2 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood with a further one in fourteen (7.4 per cent) reporting non-contact sexual abuse. In one of every six cases of contact abuse (ie 2.7 per cent of all boys) the abuse involved penetrative sex – either anal or oral”.
The report has been ignored across the political spectrum even though two ministers of the present government, John O'Donoghue, then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and Micheál Martin, then Minister for Health and Children, wrote introductions to the report.
Although there are programmes in schools warning children of the dangers of sex abuse, it is apparent that the reporting of this abuse is a tiny fraction of its incidence. No programmes, aside from the schools' Stay Safe programme has been put in place to deal with the issue, to encourage reporting or to identify the abusers.
Although there are frequent panics on child sex abuse – the most noteworthy being the one associated with the infamous “A” case last June, there seems to be no appreciation of the scale of the problem.
For the survey reveals that one in twenty females have been raped in childhood and one in thirty males.
The report goes on to record the incidence of sexual abuse among adults. One in five women (20.4 per cent again) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse as adults, with a further one in twenty (5.1 per cent) reporting unwanted non-contact sexual experiences. Over a quarter of case of contact abuse in adulthood (ie 6.1 per cent of all women) involved penetrative sex – ie rape.
The report revealed that one in ten men (9.7 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse as adults with a further 2.7 per cent reporting unwanted non-contact sexual experiences. One in ten of contact abuse in adulthood (ie 1.9 per cent of all men) involved penetrative sex – ie rape.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland's (RCNI) called on Friday for reassurance from An Gardaí that there are no other child pornography investigation cases in the Irish system that are not being appropriately prioritised.
Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘there is understandable public unease and distress about child pornography. This is not a victimless crime. Given the contradictory statements from Gardai regarding information from the Austrian investigation into a child pornography ring, and the use of two computers in Ireland, the public must be fully reassured. The public must be fully reassured that any communication failures within the Irish system have been fully addressed, that this cannot happen again, and that there are no other investigation notifications which have been overlooked.
“We must also be reassured that sufficient resources are being dedicated to the investigation of the production, viewing, sale and exchange of child pornography in Ireland”.