Speaking out about abuse is never easy… but it is incredibly brave
You’re the average family; you drop your kids off at school, you bring them to GAA practice, you sign them up for dance and drama lessons (or you will, once restrictions are lifted). Now, during these strange Covid-filled days, you, as a responsible parent, are actively encouraging your child to go online to engage in virtual learning. And why not? Isn’t the Internet a wonderful learning tool and a great resource when it comes to finding information?
In addition, in a world where families have become separated – scattered across the country and, in some instances, across the world – engaging in Zoom chats and sharing family photos and videos with each other has become the highlight of our lives. So you get it; the Internet is good.
However, by allowing our children access to the World Wide Web, we are also unwittingly, and through no fault of our own, horrifically placing them in the precarious position of potentially becoming easy prey to deviants who use it as an access point into their young, innocent lives. This includes social media, multiplayer video games and chat apps.
I mention this on foot of last week’s conviction of a County Longford child abuser (a former teacher). It’s thanks to the courage of his ‘victim’ (she’s a brave survivor in my eyes) speaking out and reporting him to Gardaí that this sick person is now behind bars. It’s also thanks to Judge Keenan Johnson, who, during a sitting of Longford Circuit Court, ruled that this pervert could be publicly named. It’s an unusual step for a Judge to allow a sex offender to be identified due to concerns that their naming could also lead to the identity of their ‘victim’. I’ve chosen not to name him here because his identity’s already in the public domain and it’s not my intention to afford him notoriety.
According to reports, this abuser pleaded guilty to four counts of having sex with this child and one charge of sexual exploitation, having befriended her via a friend request from a fake Facebook page back in 2013, when she was just a 13-year-old girl. As a result of his conviction, his name has now rightly been added to the long list of the four hundred and fifty plus poisonous offenders currently serving time in our prison system for engaging in sexual violence. He’s doing a five-year stretch.
I hope the young girl, now a 21-year-old adult – who was an innocent child of 13 when this then-teacher, in a position of power and trust, carried out a series of petrifying and disturbing sexual assaults on her – is extremely proud of herself. In coming forward she has championed the cause of all those who were groomed, used and abused as children by warped paedophiles like him to reach out and seek justice.
It was reported that this young lady, in her victim impact statement declared: “This man made me feel like I was completely worthless and undeserving of any support because I let this happen”. She did not let this happen. This was not her fault. She had absolutely no control over her abuser’s disgusting actions. She did not create the toxic environment… he did. She should not feel guilty.
What she should feel however is betrayed, confused, coerced, hurt, manipulated and shocked. She should also feel enormous pride… pride in herself, pride in her parents who supported her and in those members of An Garda Síochána who investigated and secured a prosecution.
By speaking out, this girl, in her steadfast refusal to slot into the role of ‘victim’, has become a fierce warrior. She is a doer who has shown true grit and grace. Hold your head high, my love; your bravery has given a voice to the voiceless. You took that deep breath, you ignored the extreme nausea that must have been rising inside of you, you walked into that Garda Station and reported the person who caused you harm. You are a Wonder Woman.
When Cupid and quarantine don’t mix…
Given the amount of prescheduled, heavily-filtered-kissy-huggy-lovey-dovey pics being posted on social media these days, it seems that lockdown is proving something of a success for some couples. These are the one who’re so wrapped up in each other’s love-bubble that they play tonsil tennis while out walking, arms locked around each other, blocking the path and forcing you to step into the road in order to keep your two metre distance! Puke alert!
However, given we’re into our third lockdown, if you’re finding that familiarity and unaccustomed proximity is now breeding contempt, and instead of getting dressed up in your seductive smalls for this Valentine’s Day, you’ll be instead dragging on a pair of leggings, don’t despair – you are not alone!
As the country remains stuck on pause, it’s only natural that this stressful situation would place a strain on even the most loving of relationships. Gone are those nights spent enjoying a romantic meal or an impromptu overnight getaway. Instead, in their place are in-your-face arguments and, sadly, in the case of one couple we’re close to, talks of separation. (They’re in Dublin, so you can stop speculating as to who they are!).
But hey, if any of us were looking to mix love with lockdown, we were sadly mistaken – especially if every little slurp, chew or breath he takes grates on you, and every little whinge, whine and moan you make irritates him, leading you both to ask…just who is this person I’m imprisoned with? My advice: this weekend, ignore the fact he’s eaten all the quarantine snacks (again), and she’s guzzled down all the quarantine wine and instead, sit down together and make a list of all the things you’re looking forward to enjoying as a couple and as individuals in your post-lockdown lives. Happy St. Valentine’s Day, folks.
Vaccine rollout hampered by forest of red tape!
Referring to the arrival of the first doses of AstraZeneca – a mere 21,600 of them – into the country as being a ‘big day,’ the man-without-a-plan, aka Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, appeared to be looking for a pat on the back. He won’t get one from me however, because it’s not exactly happy hour for our senior citizens living in rural Roscommon, some of whom have been cocooning since last March.
Our darling seniors, who were initially promised protection from this killer virus by the end of next month, now are not just being faced with the setback that it’ll now be April before they can feel safe and protected, they’ll also probably be discriminated as a result of their postcodes. How come? Well, it has emerged that in order to receive the vaccine, our seniors may be forced to ‘travel to a specially converted centre such as a parish hall’, the explanation being that administering the jab ‘would only be possible in cities and towns where there are large practices with multiple doctors’.
So let me get this straight, Minister… elderly people (many of whom are vulnerable, infirm, frightened, confused, without transport or are living alone) may be compelled to travel outside of their comfort zones to get a life-saving jab? I’m just wondering – aside from bureaucratic nonsense – is there any reason why our excellent local GP practices can’t be provided with sufficient amounts of vaccines for patients on their books, and be trusted to direct and drive their own personal, rollout initiative? Or is that just too straightforward a plan for our government?