Image of the ‘priest abuser’ inaccurate – charity head

The head of a leading charity dealing with victims of child abuse has said that public perceptions of a typical offender have gone too far in pointing to the ‘priest abuser’.

Speaking on RTÉ radio last weekend, Maeve Lewis, executive director with the One in Four charity said that while most abuse occurs within family settings, media reporting served to paint a picture entirely at odds with this reality.

Media coverage

“If you listen to media coverage of abuse over the past decade in this country,” Lewis said, “you would assume that every child that was abused was abused by a priest, whereas fewer than 5% of children sexually abused are abused in the Catholic Church in this country. The majority of people abused are abused by somebody they know within their own family, their extended family, in their neighbourhood.”

Similarly, on the issue of ‘stranger danger’, a frequent warning issued by concerned parents to their children, Lewis said: “Very few children are sexually abused by strangers. Yet we warn children about strangers and don’t support them in situations where it is a family member who is abusing them.”

However, Lewis said this situation was slowly changing and said she was “delighted that more are speaking out in this context towards raising awareness” of the reality of abuse in Ireland today.