Wednesday, 16 July 2014

An investigation into young adults' attitudes of Sexual abuse in Ireland

We are inviting you to take part in a study about sexual abuse in Ireland. The current study is being conducted in the University of Limerick, by  Dr. Patrick Ryan and Eimear Flynn (MSc Psychological Science), in order to gather an understanding of why sexual abuse continues to occur at such an upsetting rate.  All details of the blog are included in the information sheet attached in the pages section of the blog or at the following link; Information Sheet.

If any individual finds the contents of the blog upsetting or may wish to talk to someone about the issues raised on the blog, the following services are available to you; the Rape Crisis Network; 091563676, the HSE adult counselling services, making contact with a local G.P.,samaritans; 116123 and college students can avail of the free student counselling services available in most colleges. I may also be contacted and my details are included in the information sheet attached. By agreeing to participate in this study, you are confirming you are over the age of 18. All comments will be monitored before publishing. All comments are anonymous.

The researchers are exploring the attitudes of young adults in relation to sexual abuse. Through the use of this blog, we hope to gain an understanding of people's views on the causes of abuse and in particular, why it still persists despite public knowledge and awareness.

21 comments:

  1. In schools in Ireland, there is little or no sex ed. Despite everyone knowing it happens, it's something we're uneducated about and that we don't speak about. So very young children would be easy to manipulate if this is something they haven't been told is wrong.
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  2. It's good to see someone looking for young peoples views on such a silent yet disturbing problem in Ireland. Because of the power the perpetrator has on the victim often they remain silent. Unfortunately victims sometimes remain silent because they feel ashamed or guilty and are unwilling or afraid to come forward.

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  3. I agree, I feel like the lack of education or parents unwillingness to speak to their children about sexual abuse may also be a cause. As a result the victim believes what the perpetrator tells them that it's wrong and they shouldn't tell.

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  4. I think the abusers have too much power over the victims. It's still happening as people are still afraid to speak up and the abusers know this

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  5. We are, by nature, a view passive country. A lot of injustices in the past have just been 'swept under the carpet', especially within families who are too hung up on what the 'neighbours might think'. I believe there is a generational problem here, mindsets have been past down from generation to generation. What I believe we need is far more open discussion on sexual abuse on outlets such as our national media and social media blogs started by people with celeb-like status. We need to get our national executive on board in order to harner a nationwide debate on the harms of bottling such tough issues such as sexual abuse up. Together, we can fight against the harmfulness of this.
    Within professions, such as cleregy, educators and child carers, with higher instances of sexual abuse, on-going monitoring and screening has to be recorded. The introduction of such reform lies with our legislators and that is where I believe these forums and debates should be targeted at.

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  6. I think sexual abuse in Ireland is a huge problem and continues to grow. I agree with the post below that our country is a very passive country. Until somebody of this nature happens to somebody close to us or somebody we know then we show little or no interest in helping to stop this. Young children especially are unaware of what is and what is not okay! I believe they are afraid to speak out because they live in fear of the problems it may create or they are afraid they will actually land themselves into trouble. It does not help that we see very well known criminals of sexual abuse roam our streets. Every so often on social media sites we see warnings about various people being spotted in different counties throughout the country, and to 'keep an eye out'. Why are these people let roam our streets freely?? If this is what happens to perpetrators then its no wonder this is an increasing problem in our country, as individuals see that they are not punished accordingly. This problem needs to be urgently addressed.

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  7. I agree with the comments above that as a nation we are indeed incredibly passive. I also agree that sexual abuse is a problem that is continuing to grow, rather than beginning to cease. In my opinion I believe the media focus more on the "well-known" perpetrators, such as incidents that occur in the Catholic Church, etc. I believe these incidents are heightened, and little or no media attention is given to the everyday perpetrator. People are on guard about the people they suspect may abuse, but we are failing to understand that sexual abuse can occur in any setting. The media needs to take a more active role in helping reduce sexual violence, rather than emphasising certain cases, they should be warning people of the commonality of sexual violence in their everyday lives and how commonplace it is among people they know. All cases of sexual violence are the same, whether its a member of the clergy or a neighbour. We as a nation at present are too afraid to tackle the issues that we face, we are passive and would rather pass off the problem and hope someone else will deal with it for us.

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  8. I believe the porn industry may play a factor in sexual violence. Many of these videos display cases of a man forcing himself on a woman, at first the woman protests and eventually gives in and appears to enjoy it. These videos of men being the dominant character can give people distort people's opinions of how women actually react to sexual violence. Perhaps the excessive viewings of such videos have led males to believe this behaviour is acceptable

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  9. I think that discourse on sexual abuse in Ireland often tends to shy away from the effects our views on gender and sexuality have in forming our attitudes to sexual abuse.
    How can we expect to idealise dominance in our men and passivity in our women without the effect of men dominating women?
    I think an honest attempt to curb sexual abuse in Ireland will have to involve challenging the gender norms we have internalised, but the default response for many in this situation seems to be anger in defence of the prescriptive roles which were held sacrosanct in our society.
    I may be wrong, but from what I understand about it, sexual abuse is often about asserting power. I think it might be worth all of us examining why exactly Irish men are often uncomfortable with female power and autonomy, and why some feel a need to assert a male power(physically or psychologically) over women, and often others traditionally viewed as passive(Homosexuals and particularly Trans people.)

    ps. I am aware that not all sexual abuse is perpetrated by men against women, but it seems to amount to the lions share of cases.

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  10. I think major issues are concepts of shame for victims/survivors of abuse, and, issues with the legal system in tis country. On the first issue I think when a child has been groomed into thinking abuse is their fault- typically that they will get into trouble if they tell, some harm will come to their family etc. It is then very difficult to come away from this mindset even after the abuse is reported so that not only do they feel sexual shame as per societal discourses but also shame for having tole the 'secret'. This is further reinforced by the second issue- the Irish legal system. Often reports, especially retrospective reports from adult survivors go un-prosecuted due to lack of evidence and were cases do go to trial victims have to waive their rights to anonymity for the identity of the abuser to be exposed to the public. Its like putting victims on trial and asking them to relive the shame publicly in order for there to be a public discourse about particular cases, which is ridiculous! As per comments above I think the shame issue may be particularly pertinent for young men given hyper-masculine gender roles not just in Ireland but worldwide. For instance women in advertising etc are often portrayed as sexual objects, which is not the same (or even existent) for males. Therefore to be victimized sexually is so far removed from the social 'ideal' for men. So it's more than abuse shame but maybe shame in not living up to a preassigned masculine role- and therefore internalising a view that they are abnormal or perhaps a failure because of this.

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  11. I agree with the above posts.What people tend to forget is most sexual abusers are known to their victims, sometimes the abuser is a partner, parent, older sibling,family friend or neighbour. Parents tend to warn their children to be wary of strangers but do not speak freely of issues which may happen in the home. It is much harder to report a crime of sexual violence if the offender is known to the victim. There is the fear of been disbelieved, fear of hurting the loved one and in some instances fear of the abuser. The victim should not have to waive their right to anonymity in order to expose the abuser. Shame is huge in relation to sexual violence. As a nation we need be more open minded and non judgemental to encourage victims come forward. We need be mindful that it is never okay for someone to exert sexual power over another human being.

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  12. I think sexual abuse is a huge problem as I think society has made the topic a taboo subject. People dont like to talk about it or dont want to talk about it. I feel that more education around the topic should be given in schools. Most of the time 80% its a family member or someone the person knows and not a stranger. These myths need to be adressed.

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  13. I think one of the main issues regarding the persistent appearance of, and ignorance towards, sexual abuse in Ireland is largely to do with media, particularly social media. Every single person in this society is aware of (whether they use it or not) social media and the frightening influence it has over a lot of aspects in life today. With the topic of sexual abuse in mind, we see the shocking trivialisation of sexual exploitation and rape myth acceptance clocking up hundreds of thousands of 'facebook likes' which I believe has contributed to increased levels of sexual abuse and greater acceptance of it in our society. This is because images of both males and females engaging in sexual acts, or images sexually explicit in nature are frequently shared and distributed around social media, usually accompanied by hundreds of comments cheering on, condoning and promoting such activities. A lot of the images that appear on social media are also uploaded without the consent of the people in them. For example, there are many facebook pages entitled 'Snapchat exposed' etc. which display screenshots (unknown to the person in the photograph) sexually explicit in nature, or even worse, images knowingly taken by one individual - but unknowingly to the person in the image. This whole acceptance and trivialisation of sexual abuse and harrassment is also fed by the modern day 'Lad culture' in which young men and teens congratulate each other on their sexual conquests and activities, many times at the expense of the females involved. The more these activities are publicly trivialised on social media, the more they become accepted, resulting in a horrific culture of rape myth acceptance, which of course has been shown to positively correlate with sexual abuse and harassment. Women (especially at a college age) need to be educated in how to empower themselves in order to lower the rates of such explicit and non-consentual 'shaming' material appearing online. By no means am I saying that women are complete victims in such instances but they definitely have a responsibility to be more aware of their actions (i.e. sharing sexual images over snapchat) as it is obvious how easy these images can appear online, feeding into the 'Lad Culture' that is trivializing issues around sexual abuse. I agree that education plays a large role in this issue, however as times change I think a bigger picture needs to be painted, as sexual abuse no longer is solely confined to physical sexual abuse by strangers or family members (as mentioned above), but encompasses a whole new world of social media promotion of sexual endevours and exploits.

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  14. Firstly, I think much more research is needed on this topic so glad you have chosen this topic to study. I believe that sexual abuse still persists at such an alarming rate in this day and age due to the devastating legacy such abuse has across generations. While the sexually abusive act must create unimaginable pain for the victim in the short term, it also appears to have long lasting effects long after the abuse act has taken place, or in the case of chronic abuse, has ceased. The effects of abuse often appears to destroy the victims sense of self-worth and overall emotional wellbeing, but also their ability to have healthy intimate relationships, including sexual relationships in many cases. Unfortunately, there are many accounts of perpetrators of sexual abuse who report histories of sexual abuse in their own early life. This I believe is a key reason as to why sexual abuse remains such a painful issue to the day for many - due to it's inter-generational legacy. For this reason I believe identification of abuse is only part of the solution. It is crucial that the right supports are put in place for both victims and perpetrators to ensure that this vicious cycle is broken. Obviously, this is not to say that all victims of sexual abuse later become perpetrators, or to say that all perpetrators have themselves been abused. Also, by gaining a better understanding of what factors help people manage and overcome some of the incredible pain caused by sexual abuse we can begin to place better supports in place for those who suffer from the effects of abuse, years and often decades later. Good luck with the research!

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  15. I agree with the comment above about social media and the internet playing a major role on the continuance of sexual violence in the present day. I also agree that 'lad culture' is growing epidemically across the world. Sites such as the 'lad bible' and 'unilad' encourage this lad culture behaviour, in which male conquests are glorified and women are depicted as sexual objects. However, men are not fully to blame for the growth of this culture, we must question the women who are happy to partake and conform to the belief that they should dress in a way that is appealing to men, rather than a way they feel comfortable in, allowing themselves to be objectified. Many women send provocative pictures of themselves into sites such as these and undo the hard work of other women trying to create equality between men and women, especially sexually. This leads to the dominance of men in the sexual world. It also creates a belief that if women dress provocatively, "they are looking for it". At present, we are living in such a sexualised environment, i believe many people may find it difficult to separate what is sexually correct and sexually incorrect. People may be engaging in unwanted sexual acts, due to pressure. Sexual abuse does not just incorporate rape and child sexual abuse now, it is a whole new widespread domain. I think we need to address the social media sites and the internet. A major screening of what is allowed displayed on the internet needs to be addressed. Nowadays, it is simple to come across anything, no matter how vulgar or obscene it is, on the internet. Until this lad dominated sexual world is questioned, and women stop believing they are inferior sexually, I believe alot of unwanted sexual acts will continue to occur, but will also go unreported.

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  16. I feel like sexual abuse is both linked to the porn industry and this 'lad culture' that has developed in recent times. I read recently in an article that even the porn industry themselves are shocked by how much violence the fans want. I also believe that porn gives individuals false expectations about sex, and often causes people to be shocked and angry if their partner is not willing to participate in porn sex. The porn industry does not just affect men's beliefs on how sex should be, it also affects women, they start to think differently about their bodies and their sexual relationships. As stated above, there are an abundant number of images of naked women circling the internet in recent times. The more this occurs, the more women are reduced to sexual objects. This can be detrimental to women and their sexual identity. The problem with porn is it leads the viewers to believe they have permission to treat women the same way as they are treated in the videos, as it appears that this is what women want sexually. Porn has made sexual abusive behaviour appear normal. I think sexual violence may be even more common than we are aware at present. We as a nation are so uneducated about sexual abuse. Our young people are slaves to social media and are now educating themselves from what they read on facebook. They are also conforming to certain beliefs due to its popularity or the amount of facebook likes it received. The current influence of social media needs to be assessed and sexual abuse prevention should be more prominent in the media, rather than glorifying sexual conquests and objectifying women.

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  17. If we can't have a mature attitude to sex as a society how is there supposed to be a mature assessment of sexual abuse and assault?
    If collectively sex is viewed as something taboo or not to be spoken of, how do we approach the nature of sexual abuse? The same attitude will be brought when discussing sexual abuse, people will want to keep it quiet and not engage the problem.
    The fact that victims of sexual abuse are often marginalised after being assaulted makes stopping these crimes even harder. The victim should not become the pariah, the perpetrator should be the one who is outcast, shamed, and punished in the courts law.
    While the attitudes to sex are slowly changing in Ireland, it is still a slow moving revolution. When we decide to assess sex as something natural and not to be ashamed of, then perhaps we will be able to negate and stop such a heinous evil as sexual abuse.

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  18. I believe education in schools is essential to combat the current problems of sexual violence in Ireland. Unfortunately, when incidents of sexual abuse are reported, more often or not society blames the victim. Females are continuously warned not to go out late alone at night, not to wear short skirts or provocative clothing "because they will be asking for it" and not to walk alone. However, none of these things are the reason why there is sexual abuse occurring in society today. We need to start educating our young people on both sex, sexual violence, intimacy and relationships. Throughout my entire education, I am now at University level, I NEVER received sex ed. This I believe is disgraceful. The current generation of teenagers are facing a barrage of ideas about sex and gender differences, and how they as an individual will be valued sexually. Although, we know our young people are faced with this all the time and that at the same time, they are struggling to deal with maturing sexually and all the changes in their body, there is no education system in place to help them deal with this. I believe age appropriate sexual education should be introduced in both secondary and primary schools, regarding issues such as consent, sexual violence and intimate relationships. Our young people need to receive an education outside of the one they are receiving on social media sites and online, so that they learn that porn is not how real life relationships work.

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  19. In Ireland, acts of rape or sexual violence involved with drinking are discredited. People tend to blame the victim for putting themselves in a compromising situation. As a nation, we need to reinforce public awareness of sexual abuse and aim to change people's prejudice attitudes which often involve blaming the victim. The current legislation on law reform on adult rape were constructed in 1981 and 1990, and I would believe these would not remain suitable in the 21st century. I believe that sexual violence and rape laws need to be addressed, in addition, a proper definition of what constitutes consent should be constructed. More public awareness is also needed in order to highlight that it is not the victims fault and also increased sexual education should be introduced in both schools and univerisities.

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    1. I agree with the above comments about the necessity for greater sexual education in Irish schools as a means of prevention. Ireland, as a society, has long conveyed an attitude for letting issues , such as domestic violence and clerical abuse, stagnate for far too long due to the taboo nature of these topics. I feel that as with any problem, the younger a person can learn what is right and wrong, what constitutes sexual abuse and how to be aware of it, the more a problem can be dealt with and in a successful manner. I find it shocking that the only significant sexual education I can remember receiving was an hour long talk held in sixth class for both pupils and parents on sex and puberty and a very few classes in Religion and SPHE in secondary school. In addition, these classes talked almost exclusively about relationships, love and practicing safe sex, without ever delving into the darker side of sexuality. I feel that a greater focus on all aspects of sexual education, starting in late primary and secondary school should be implemented. In addition, greater public campaigning is needed to open up the topic and allow victims to be aware that there are support systems out there that are in place and freely available. By providing the youth with a better sexual education, upon exposure to increasingly sexualized surroundings such as in university, they will feel more prepared and confident in their knowledge of what constitutes respecting the sexual boundaries.

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  20. I my own opinion I think people just aren't aware of the extent of the problem in Ireland and this is a contributing factor as to why it still persists. From being in contact with young adults who have been sexually abused there is a huge problem of silence and fear of speaking out and from my own experience I believe the scale of abuse is way beyond what the general public perceive it to be. I agree with previous comments that porn and the increasingly sexualised culture young people are growing up in is fuelling an already lit fire, however I think what is lost is that while men may be the main perpetrators of sexual abuse amongst young adults there is also a lot of abuse being committed by females but due to various reasons it is being under reported. For example from my own experience I have often found underage males bragging about having sexual encounters with females 10 to 20 years older than them as if it was something to be celebrated as a coming of age but failing to see that what had happened is sexual abuse of a minor. I think abuse by adult females on young males is often portrayed in the media as a seeking of attention by an older woman while for adult males it is portrayed as predatory (not always but there is a trend), I feel this clouds the reality of what is happening, abuse of a minor is simply that, abuse of a minor, and it should be viewed no differently if it is perpetrated by a male or female. In misrepresentation and silence abuse of minors thrives and will continue to until we begin to realise and accept that not very far from any of us someone is suffering sexual abuse in silence a silence that is being facilitated by our societies lack of grasping the sheer scale at which sexual abuse of young adults is happening at the hands of young adults themselves and older adults.

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