We could hardly care less about most of our children
* A quarter (24 per cent) of perpetrators against girls were family members, half (52 per cent) were non-family but known to the abused girl, and a quarter (24 per cent) were strangers;
* One in seven perpetrators (14 per cent) against boys was a family member, with two-thirds (66 per cent) non-family but known to the abused boy. One in five (20 per cent) were strangers.
We are talking here about an epidemic of sexual abuse of people in their childhood, nearly 12 per cent of the population, maybe hundreds of thousands of abusers.
What would you think a government or a political establishment, generally, or a society would do when faced with such startling disclosures about the rape and abuse of children? Yes, some people might be disbelieving, thinking there was some defect in the research. But wouldn’t you think the disbelievers or sceptics in government would want to assure themselves that the scale of abuse was not of these proportions by funding further studies? That did not happen.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, which had instigated the SAVI report, sought funding from government on several occasions over the last several years to have another survey conducted on the scale of the abuse. But no funding was forthcoming – it wasn’t a priority!
No credible challenge has been made to the methodology of the survey or the integrity of the researchers/authors, so there is no reason to believe that it does not convey the reality.
Nevertheless, there was no response to these findings, in terms of policy changes or action, in any way proportionate to the scale of the problem revealed. Fundamentally, nothing was done to protect the nation’s children from abuse. Children did not matter. And nobody on the opposition benches protested, none of the bishops said a word (as far as I recall), and few of the practised handwringers did anything.
Now we have a proposed constitutional amendment that, supposedly, will protect children, an amendment that in part changes nothing (the assertion about children’s rights, as though that was not already implicit in the Constitution), does change the law on the adoption of children of married parents and this is of course welcome. But then the proposed amendment bows to the fundamentalists in according rights to the family, an institution that has been the locus of the widespread abuse of children.
Aside from that, if children really do matter, how come so many are in poverty, or fail to get adequate education? How come so many children are denied adequate healthcare? Once this amendment is passed children can be placed on the back burner.
Some might say literally.