We could hardly care less about most of our children
THE ARRESTING black and white poster, with the photograph of a charming child, accompanied by the slogan “Every Child Matters”, is one of the falsehoods perpetrated by the Government parties urging support for the children’s rights referendum, writes VINCENT BROWNE
In this State and in this society every child does not matter. We could hardly care less about most of the nation’s children and as for protecting them from rape, buggery, abuse and trauma, we make gestures and do little else.
This referendum campaign is part of the concerted denial of how we could hardly care less about very many of our children and once it is passed, there will be reason not to care at all, in the illusion that we have done our bit by voting “Yes”.
Let’s start with the rape, buggery, abuse and trauma that children suffer that we do so little about.
A report published 10 years ago, funded by two government departments, Justice and Health, revealed a scale of rape, buggery and abuse of children that was truly shocking. But almost no attention was paid to it by governments, State agencies, and, incidentally, the media. This was the SAVI Report: Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland: A National Study of Irish Experiences, Beliefs and Attitudes Concerning Sexual Violence. It was conducted by a survey team in the Royal College of Surgeons: Hannah McGee, Rebecca Garavan, Mairéad de Barra, Joanne Byrne and Ronan Conroy.
It revealed the following:
* One in five women (24 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood and about one-third of these (7.6 per cent of all women) experienced attempted or actual penetrative sex in childhood (ie rape or attempted rape). That is almost a quarter of all women in Ireland were sexually abused in childhood and one in 13 women was subjected to rape or attempted rape in childhood;
* One in six men (16.2 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood and about a quarter of these (4.2 per cent) experienced attempted or actual penetrative sex in childhood;
* Overall, almost one-third of women and a quarter of men reported some level of sexual abuse in childhood (that is contact and non-contact sexual abuse – non-contact sexual abuse includes being exposed to pornography or actual sexual scenes);
* Most sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence occurred in the pre-pubescent period, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of abused girls and 62 per cent of abused boys having experienced abuse by 12 years of age;
* A third (36 per cent) of those who had experienced sexual abuse as a child now believe that their abuser was also abusing other children at the time;