One of the most important things we all want to do is to make sure that our children are safe. We warn our children of the dangers of strangers. Teach them not to talk to or go anywhere with anyone unknown to them. This is not bad advice. However, it is not the most likely instance where a child will be at risk for sexual abuse or sexual violence. The reason we find it easier to warn our children about the dangers of a stranger is because it means that a person who may cause harm is not someone we adults trust. It's hard to face that someone you know, love and, care about may be the person who could sexually abuuse your child.
Client stats from 2015 in relation to our advocacy clients:
43% of clients seeking support were for issues concerning intra-famialial sexual abuse allegations. (Someone within the immediate family unit: mother, father, mother, brother, grandfather, sister etc.)
14% were seeking support for extra-familial related sexual abuse allegations (neighbours, family, friends, teachers etc.)
This means that most advocacy clients were sexually abused as children by a member of their family or somebody they knew.
In 2015, we had 38 clients in the Phoenix Programme (Offenders Programme). Of the children that were abused by these 38 offenders, 43% of them were a sister, daughter, son, niece, nephew or cousin to the offender.
Although we are pulling information from a small pool, the numbers show that unfortunately, a child is most likely to be abused by a family member or someone known to them. This shatters the idea that strangers are the biggest threat and are who we should be teaching our children to protect themselves from.
It is not only adults that abuse children, often children abuse other children. A huge concern is not just the impact the abuse has on the victims but also that this carry on throughout the perpetrator's life, from childhood into adulthood.
Known circumstances that can lead to sexually abusing a child:
- If a child is made feel worthless and/or humiliated it can be a way to redeem power.
- If the child was born into a stressful situation. Were there strains on the family? The impact of parents availability to be around or available...
- The family: the security felt within the family unit, the environment a person is raised in, the attachments made with other family members.
- If a child has been bullied, has low self esteem or is deprived in some manner. Sexual offending often begins where there is a deficit of something else, be it love, money, support, safety etc.
There is no excuse for child sexual abuse. It is vital to understand how it happens as it is sadly so prevalent on society. By understanding what has happened in the past we can work to prevent it in our future. The Phoenix Programme along with our family support groups is crucial for ending this epidemic.
The support we receive from people like you helps families overcome histories of childhood sexual abuse. It gives One in Four a chance to work with them on prevention of further abuse.
If you have been affected by childhood sexual abuse you can contact One in Four and we will offer you support through advocacy and psychotherapy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01 6624070.
If you wish to report you may do so via Tusla: http://www.tusla.ie/services/child-protection-welfare/ for further information. Or contact your local Garda Station.
*statistics have been taken from our annual report and can be found at oneinfour.ie/about-us/