It is time for the topic of child sex abuse to be brought into the world of everyday reality. People need to take their heads out of the sand and not rely on the inaccurate information they have been fed in the media.
From a reading of headlines in Ireland in the past few years, a visitor from outer space might be excused for assuming that all the child sexual abuse in this country had been perpetrated by Catholic clergymen - and by no one else. In fact, out of the current aggregate of 9,017 priests and brothers in Ireland (North and South), 27 priests and 11 brothers have been convicted of child sexual abuse since the 1980s, this representing a ratio of four per 1,000. Of the 38 total, 33 have received custodial sentences.
The evidence from elsewhere - and there is no reason to suppose that it is any different here - is that 50 per cent of child sex abuse incidents are perpetrated by a family member.
For me, the most shocking statistic to emerge from a conference on child sexual abuse in Athlone earlier this year was that one third of all child sex abusers are male adolescents under the age of 18. This fact alone puts an enormous onus on parents to be very careful whom they leave in charge of young children, whether they be older siblings, nephews, cousins or neighbours. It is an increasingly sad fact of life that nothing can be taken for granted anymore.
So what is the true picture of the scale of child sex abuse in Ireland and elsewhere? A few facts may put the subject into some perspective, based on information imparted at that conference entitled Child Sexual Abuse: the Irish Experience So Far and the...