ISPCC advert depicts 'extreme cruelty'

 

A CONTROVERSIAL 40-second Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children advert that depicts graphic violence against a small boy could traumatise those who view it, clinical psychologist Marie Murray has said.

The ad was posted on the charity’s website earlier this week as part of its fundraising campaign and has had 90,000 views so far. It has attracted criticism, including from Ms Murray and from child psychologist Owen Connolly.

It features a seven-year-old boy who is reciting the charity’s “Children’s Rights Manifesto”. While speaking he is struck a number of times by an adult male. His voice reflects his growing anxiety and pain and his face becomes bloodier as he talks. It concludes with the boy saying: “I can’t wait to grow up.”

Ms Murray said she was deeply concerned about the advert, which depicted “extreme cruelty”, and believed it should be removed. “Such depictions would be distressing if accessed by children,” she said.

“They have the potential to reverberate for any child who has suffered physical abuse, and alarm any child who would not have ever contemplated that adults could hurt children.”

She also said it could have serious resonance for adults who experienced violence in childhood and could trigger flashbacks for them. “Viewing this video depiction has the potential to upset any normal adult who cares about children,” she said. “It has the potential to traumatise those who view it.” Ms Murray also raised concerns about the wellbeing of the child involved in making the advert.

She described the use of such images to seek donations as “unfortunate”, and said it could paradoxically leave an organisation whose remit was the protection of children open to accusations of exploitation.

Ms Murray also said the statement accompanying the video on the charity’s website, which said the child symbolised the resilience shown by so many victims of abuse, was an unfortunate message.

“While one cannot but admire those who did indeed manage to put the trauma of childhood violence behind them, psychologists who work clinically with victims of violence are equally aware of the enormous distress carried by people who were victims of violence in childhood; for some the scars are life-long,” she said.

The society’s finance director, Lloyd Byrne, said all the ad was doing was representing what children were telling the charity.

“We haven’t plucked this image out of the sky,” he said. “Child abuse is shocking; it is not nice to hear or see, but it takes place.”

Anyone who suffered violence and was disturbed by the footage should seek support, he said.

He said the boy involved in the filming was accompanied by his parents, and all precautions were taken to ensure he was safe.

The charity did give consideration to the impact of the ad before it was aired, Mr Byrne said, but the opinion of a psychologist was not sought. “All we are doing is representing what children are saying to us,” he said.

The video can be viewed at ispcc.ie