Survivors of abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland asked to come forward
Inquiry into child abuse over 74-year period seeks survivors now living in the United States
By JANE WALSH, IrishCentral Staff Writer Sunday, August 11, 2013
A major inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland is launching an international appeal for victims and survivors to come forward. The inquiry seeks to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 74-year period, from 1922 up to 1995.
The Inquiry recognizes that there has been considerable migration from Northern Ireland to various parts of the United States and is anxious to encourage any survivors who suffered childhood abuse in Northern Ireland institutions but who now live overseas to get in touch….
HONORING THE TRUTH: A RESPONSE TO THE BACKLASH
by ELLEN BASS and LAURA DAVIS
from THE COURAGE TO HEAL: A GUIDE FOR WOMEN SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE THIRD EDITION, 1994 published by HarperCollins
“Honoring the Truth” is a response to the current backlash against adult survivors of child sexual abuse. If you’ve watched TV, listened to the radio, or read newspapers or magazines in the past two years, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the “false memory syndrome” and have witnessed attacks on survivors’ memories and credibility. It is these attacks we are responding to here.
As in the rest of The Courage to Heal, we have included the experiences of survivors as well as practical self-help information. Unlike the rest of the book, however, we also incorporate here the work of therapists, researchers, and other experts—and more than a hundred footnotes—to place this backlash in a historical and political perspective….
A LITTLE HISTORY
Since 1860, child abuse has been discovered and then discredited every 35 years by the most visionary clinicians of the day, each faced with the alternative of denouncing the discovery or succumbing to scorn and
disgrace. 6 —Roland Summit
This is not the first time survivors of child sexual abuse have been told they were lying, misguided, vindictive, imagining it, wanting it, or just plain crazy.
Early in his career, Sigmund Freud identified child sexual abuse as the cause of much mental and emotional illness in adulthood. By listening to his patients (a revolutionary idea in itself), he learned that many of the women and men he was treating had been sexually traumatized. 7
Many had initial amnesia for the trauma, but when they were able to recall the events and talk about them, their contemporary symptoms subsided. When he put forth this discovery, Freud was criticized and ridiculed by his colleagues. Ultimately he recanted, and proposed instead that his patients had either fantasized the sex or had desired it. 8 Thus scientific knowledge was put on a fast train backwards, and sexually abused children—and the adults they grew up to be—were left bereft. 9….
In 1870 Josephine Butler campaigned against child prostitution, comparing the traffic in young girls to the slave trade. She was harassed by the London police and assaulted by the owners of brothels. Although her cause was supported by other prominent crusaders in Europe and in the United States, it wasn’t until 1910 that the U.S. Congress passed the Mann Act, forbidding the transport of women and children across state lines for sexual exploitation.1….
In 1937 Loretta Bender and Adam Blau wrote, “These children undoubtedly do not deserve completely the cloak of innocence with which they have been endowed by moralists, social reformers and legislators.” Referring to the children’s “unusually charming and attractive . . . personalities,” they went on to conclude that “the child might have been the actual seducer rather than the one innocently seduced.”1….
And in 1953, Alfred Kinsey and his fellow researchers documented the prevalence of child sexual abuse but minimized its impact. In a sample of over one thousand women, one in four reported sexual abuse. Eighty percent of these said they had been frightened by the encounters, but Kinsey and his colleagues discounted their accounts, writing, “It is difficult to understand why a child, except for its cultural conditioning, should be disturbed at having its genitalia touched.” They went on to express their belief that penalties for perpetrators were overly harsh: “In many instances the law, in the course of punishing the offender, does more damage to more persons than was ever done by the individual in his illicit sexual activity.”1….
As late as the 1970s many clinicians were still taught that incest was extremely rare, affecting only one in a million children.20….
The advances of the past twenty years are a direct outgrowth of the women’s liberation movement that gained force in the 1970s. Women courageously spoke out about rape and battering, wrote books analyzing the ways in which our society condoned such violence, and worked to establish battered women’s shelters and rape crisis centers.
Simultaneously, a few pioneering clinicians and researchers, both men and women, were beginning to study child sexual abuse and set up models for treatment. It was from this visionary thinking—and grassroots activism—that the curren t movement to end child sexual abuse was built.
We began to insist that children be protected, survivors be supported, and perpetrators be held responsible for their acts. This monumental advance in our willingness to be aware, to care, and to respond has come about only in the past two decades—most visibly in the past decade. This
is the first time in history that children and adults who were sexually abused have been listened to, respected, and believed….
The current backlash is in direct response to the activism of survivors. It was not until survivors started challenging and changing the laws regarding the accountability of perpetrators—and suing their abusers—that claims of “false memory syndrome” started
Why do so many journalists present one-sided, erroneous accounts? The subject is dramatic and controversial. It sells papers, improves ratings, makes great sound bites. It grabs the attention of even the most jaded reader.
The appeal of these stories, however, goes far beyond our national obsession with sex, violence, and broken families. Anti-survivor propaganda has found a receptive audience with the public at large. People read about the “false memory syndrome” and are readily convinced. Why? Because denying the reality of child sexual abuse appeals to a basic human need: the need to distance ourselves from human cruelty….
Websites with information on programming and survivor issues. https://survivorship.org/programming/