This is a guest-posting by a professional with Rape Crisis Midwest, helping men and and women who have experienced sexual abuse.
– If you tell, no one will believe you.
– If you tell, I’ll be put in prison and everyone will blame you.
– If you tell, I’ll put my fist through your face.
– If you tell, I’ll start on your sister.
– If you tell, I’ll kill your dog.
It’s so easy to keep a child quiet, and abusers are masters at silencing children.
For the past twenty years I have worked with Rape Crisis Midwest (formerly Limerick Rape Crisis Centre) and I never cease to be surprised by the cunning and ingenuity of abusers. Their ability to manipulate and silence their victims is truly staggering. Of course it is this very silence that can be so destructive for survivors in later years.
Here in Rape Crisis Midwest we offer free, professional, non-judgmental counselling to female and male adult survivors of all forms of sexual violence.
There is no charge for our service; we firmly believe that survivors of sexual abuse have paid enough already. Our counsellors go through a rigorous selection and training process and no one here will ever blame you for what happened to you. We are very clear that the responsibility for sexual abuse always, always lies with the abuser. It also means that you have to be over eighteen to access our service.
It is possible to heal and move on from sexual abuse without counselling, because we all have different strengths and different ways of coping, but some people do benefit tremendously from counselling. Child sexual abuse is one of the most devastating of human experiences and counselling can provide a safe, neutral place to talk about what happened and explore how the abuse still effects your life. The pain, terror, helplessness and humiliation involved result in severe distress, which can have an impact on every aspect of your life. Counselling can help you find your own strengths, resources and potential, so that you can decide the way forward that suits you best.
It is important to say that getting help and support does not mean you must report to the Gardai. In fact, only nine percent of survivors of all forms of sexual violence ever go on to report to the Gardai. However, if you have been abused then you absolutely have the right to report that crime if you wish. That might seem like an immensely obvious thing to say but you would be astounded at the numbers of survivors who do not view what was done to them as a crime and certainly do not view their abuser as a criminal.
If someone does choose to report, we will support that person every step of the way, from contacting the Gardai right through to the court case. If that person chooses not to report we will also support them every step of the way in their healing journey. It is not our role to pressurize anyone into reporting, but rather to give out all the information about the legal process so they can make an informed decision.
I have been working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for some time now. Almost without exception, they speak of the immense difficulty in breaking the silence that surrounds their sexual abuse. Statistically we know that at least fifty percent of survivors never, ever tell anyone (SAVI report 2002). The men and women I see are the ones who have found the strength and courage from somewhere to seek out help and support.
I often find that high-profile court cases can trigger memories and feelings for survivors. As can television programmes, the birth of a child, the death of the abuser or suddenly seeing the abuser again after many years.
If you are reading this and have survived sexual abuse, or you know someone who has, then I would truly encourage you to reach out.
The one point I would really like to get across is this: don’t be on your own with your past. Shame and secrecy go hand in hand with child sexual abuse, because abusers use that shame and secrecy to keep you silent and isolated. Don’t let them do that to you. You have the right to speak out, you have the right to look for help and you definitely have the right to a rich fulfilling life.
There are various organisations that can provide professional and specialized help. Within the HSE there is an Adult Counselling Service for survivors, and Rape Crisis Centres throughout the country provide counselling and support to survivors of all forms of sexual violence.
We have the right to freedom from sexual violence and that freedom starts with breaking the silence.
Telephone: 01 661 4911
Freefone: 1800 778888
70 Lower Leeson Street
Sexual Violence Centre Cork
5 Camden Place
Telephone: 021 450 5577
Freefone: 1800 496 496
Fax: 021 450 4690
Punch’s Cross, Limerick
Telephone: 061 311 511
Freefone: 1 800 311 511
7, Claddagh Quay
Freefone: 1800 355 355 (freephone)
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Clifford Street, Wexford
e-mail : email@example.com
telephone 094 902 56 57
Help Line 1800 234 900
Other RCC contact numbers
Athone RCC 1800 306600
South Leinster RCC 1800 727737
Donegal RCC 1800 448844
Kerry RCC 1800 63333
Kilkenny RCC 1800 478478
Dundalk RCC 1800 212122
Sligo RCC 1800 750780
Tipperary RCC 1800 340340
Tullamore RCC 1800 323232
Waterford RCC 1800 296296
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