CONTENT WARNING: Child Sexual Abuse, Incest, Incompetent Agencies, Child Neglect
In much the same way as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse a child, as well. It takes adults in positions of trust and authority to turn a blind eye. It takes people who have concerns not to voice those concerns. It takes family members who have a feeling something is wrong to do nothing about those concerns. It takes professionals who know based on information they are presented with, and privilege to have, to do nothing with this information. It takes people who know the child is not lying to intimidate, and (attempt to) silence that child. Even when that child becomes an adult (as is the case for many adult survivors of child sexual abuse).
For me, my family was the first site of abuse: I was sexually abused by my father, Christy Talbot, and my two elder brothers, Nigel Talbot and Cormac Talbot. Sexual abuse was a part of my life in the home from the time I was three until I was 19. I was sexually assaulted (up to, and including oral, anal, digital, and vaginal rape), by one or other – sometimes more than one – of these males up to five days/nights a week when they were living under the same roof as I.
With apologies to Tolstoy, each dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way, but a hallmark of all dysfunctional families is that it is static. A static family dynamic means that in order to ‘protect’ and preserve the family norms, each member must resume the role assigned to them when the family is together. To people who were not raised in toxic, dangerously dysfunctional, abusive families, this may seem bizarre, but collusion is very important to the family members who so collude because it means:
- They don’t have to confront their own part in the abuse – for example, my mother does not have to deal with the fact that she took, and continues to take, the side of the abusers (my father and brothers) over the side of the abused (me)
- No confrontation of their own possible abuse – I was not the only one in the family who was sexually abused, although my abuse was the most severe. If they refuse to admit that I was abused, then my abused siblings don’t have to deal with the fact that they were, too. Their ideas of who they are remains unchallenged because they are not confronting all of their own realities and histories
- They don’t need to seek help for their own psychological disorders / mental health difficulties. By continuing to deny that they were were abused, that they abused, and / or that they facilitated abuse means my siblings and extended family members do not have to work on their own healing. This is hard, ugly, work and not everyone is able to – or wants to – commit to it.
- Their childish view of people as binary – ‘good’ or ‘bad’ remains unconfronted – casting people as either heroes or villains, rather than looking at their complexities, allows my family to cast themselves as ‘heroes’ and me as a ‘villain’. They think that, because there are so many of them, and only one of me, they must be right, and I must be wrong. But – remember Galileo?!
- Appearances are kept up – for narcissists (like my mother), this is hugely important. When all that matters is what other people think, cruelty to your own children is an acceptable trade-off to keep up appearances. Their health and well-being can easily be sacrificed on the altar of public opinion, if the opinion will view you favourably.
Collusion within the family was aided by collusion on the part of clergy, medics, social workers, and the psychiatrist I was sent to in St Louise’s Unit in Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin. As you can see from this document there were a whole slew of people having meetings about me – but none of them (save Imelda Ryan) ever actually met me. Highlights from this ‘Case Conference Report’ make the following observations:
- This is a very disturbed Family who need (sic) help – That help was never provided.
- They are all under enormous strain, and playing very dangerous games – This is not elaborated on, and there is no indication what the ‘dangerous games’ were, or why the vulnerable children (of which I was one) were removed.
- The Gardaí will have to be involved – to try to maintain a control over the family – the Gardaí were never involved until I went to them as an adult.
- Joint interview to be arranged – Rosemary being present to obtain an objective sense of the situation – Rosemary was, apparently my social worker. I never met her.
Mind you, according to her LinkedIn profile, Rosemary is still in practice. Maybe I should contact her and ask her if she’s actually learnt how to do her job in the intervening years.
Imelda Ryan – who is so incompetent and ignorant with regard to the effects of child sexual abuse, and how it presents that she is a real danger to children – was appointed to TUSLA’s National Review Panel. (I’ll have more to say about her and it at a later stage.)
Given that child sexual abuse is endemic in Irish society, those of us who value children and want what’s best for them need to step up and speak out. Every child is the responsibility of every adult. Children are not (just) our future. They are our present – they are their own future. We, as adults, need to treat them as the precious beings they are and be the village they need to support them, to nourish them, to ensure that they are provided with what they need to thrive and reach their potential. Ignoring their pain, colluding to keep them in sites of abuse is a far cry from being that village.