‘Send the judges to rape crisis centres’

Judges should be “compelled” to spend time in rape crisis centres to learn about sexual violence and the impact on victims, a new survivors group has said.

‘Send the judges  to rape crisis centres’

The ANU Campaign for Truth, Rights, and Justice wants victims to be put at the centre of the justice system in terms of the investigation and prosecution of sex abuse.

The grassroots organisation is also calling for a radical change in how offenders are punished, with a greater effort placed on changing their behaviour and less concentration on simple imprisonment.

“I’m not happy with how I was treated as an abuse victim,” said one survivor, Cynthia Owen, at the press launch yesterday.

“I want to change that for me obviously, but to change for all: For yesterday’s survivors and tomorrow’s child victims.

“A million adults today are victims of child abuse and 380,000 children have been abused.”

Also speaking at the launch, Fiona Doyle said that, like the other survivors present, she had experienced “doors closed in our faces” and “massive explosions in our families”, including cases of siblings dying by suicide.

“We are adamant to do our best and stand up, so that the next abuse victim that wants to come forward it will be a lot easier,” she said, adding victims should not be treated as mere witnesses to the crime.

“They’re not witnesses, they are a victim. The whole justice system needs to be sensitised.

“It should be compulsory for a judge to go in and do time in rape crisis centres and be sensitised and learn how to handle us as victims.”

The Kavanagh sisters, Paula, June, and Joyce, also spoke at the launch. Paula said that “you should not be a witness to your own life”, and called for changes in the courts to take into consideration the needs of victim.

June said there needed to be changes in the attitude towards offenders: “If I came to you and said your daughter has been abused by this man, you naturally want this man hung, drawn, and quartered, but if I came to you and said your son has just abused my daughter, everything changes.

“You’d want to know what happened, why did your son do such a thing, what can you do to help him, what could possibly be wrong that would cause him to do such a thing.

“We need to be thinking like that instead of ‘shoot them, lock them away’ — that’s been proven that does nothing.”

Paula said offenders had to be made accountable and “actually really understand” what they had done.

Survivors seeking justice - The women behind the ANU campaign:

- Fiona Doyle: From Bray, Co Wicklow, Fiona was raped by her father, Patrick O’Brien, once a week for a decade from the age of eight.

There was public outrage in January when the 72-year-old rapist walked free from court. He had been handed a 12-year sentence, with nine years suspended, but was released on bail to await an appeal on the jail term. Three days later, Mr Justice Paul Carney revoked O’Brien’s bail and apologised to Ms Doyle.

- Cynthia Owen: In a case that became known as the ‘Dalkey House of Horrors’, Cynthia said a paedophile ring operated in her parents’ house in the 1970s.

She was routinely raped by her father and had a baby when just 11 years old. She claimed her mother stabbed the baby to death at birth with a knitting needle in the family home before dumping it in a laneway. An inquest in Feb 2007 found the baby, Noleen Murphy, was stabbed to death in the family home, White’s Villas, Dalkey, on Apr 4, 1973.

- Joyce, June, and Paula Kavanagh: The sisters from Ballyfermot, west Dublin, were sexually abused as children by their father, Kevin. In 1990, when he was 69, they brought a case against him and he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Along with Marian Quinn, they wrote a book, entitled Click Click, about their sexual abuse at the hands of their father.

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