One in Four launches exhibition by people who suffered sexual abuse as children

Survivors tell their stories in images and text, creating a ‘compelling, disturbing’ exhibition

An exhibition of photographs and words produced by eight people who have experienced childhood sexual violence was launched at Dublin's Civic Council Offices in Wood Quay on Tuesday evening.

A collaborative research project conducted by UCD sociologist Dr Maria Quinlan and visual artist Patrick Bolger on behalf of One in Four, it uses a method of participatory photography known as "photovoice" to allow survivors to create images that encapsulate the impact of childhood sexual abuse. Through images and words they have provided powerful testimonies.

Maeve Lewis, One in Four executive directive described it as "The story of childhood sexual violence in Ireland. It is ubiquitous, hidden in plain sight, hidden by perpetrators, the victims often silenced by shame, stigma and fear. This exhibition aims to be a further step towards breaking the silence that clouds our collective consciousness of the nature of childhood trauma and sexual violence in Ireland."

She said, “Creating images that encapsulate their experiences supports the survivors in finding a language to tell their painful truth directly and unambiguously.


“The result is a compelling, disturbing but inspiring exhibition that will resonate with the one in four Irish people who have been sexually abused, and will help create an understanding and awareness among those who have not.”

She said it is One in Four’s intention to take the exhibition nationwide.

Dr Quinlan and Mr Bolger said that 14 years on from the SAVI (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) report, which found one in four people in Ireland experienced sexual violence, and which gave the charity One in Four its name, they had gathered “a collection of testimonies from people who have experienced childhood sexual violence”.

The courtroom, they said, “ is not the only place where testimony can be given. Photovoice is a powerful tool that illuminates a person’s truth in a way that other methods which we have used do not appear to be able to do. It gives participants full control, and in the tradition of feminist, participatory research, moves the locus of power from researcher as ‘expert’ to the participant as the rightful expert on their experience.”

The launch included a panel discussion with survivors of childhood sexual violence, chaired by broadcaster Dr Ciara Kelly.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times