Victims shocked by Mary Kenny article on nature of abuse

11 May 2012
Irish times

There has been strong reaction to an article by journalist Mary Kenny calling for an "honest inquiry" into Fr Brendan Smyth's abuse of children and in which details of the abuse are spelled out.
She called for an end to "euphemism and evasion" surrounding the term "child abuse" and described the Cloyne report as "very unimpressive because it was so legalistic". Dublin abuse victim Marie Collins said Kenny's article in the Irish Catholic newspaper "felt like a blow in the stomach". She asked whether its subtext was "to mitigate the guilt of Brendan Smyth as the abuser and excuse the inaction of Fr Seán Brady and the church?"
One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said they were "deeply shocked by the tone and content" of the article. "It is clear that she has no understanding of the impact of sexual abuse on a child," she said of Kenny.
Supporting the call by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin for an independent inquiry into abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth, Kenny suggested that it not be "exclusively composed of, or written by, lawyers". Such a report should be "plain speaking". Most of what was written about abuse cases had been "shrouded in euphemism and evasion . . . What exactly constitutes abuse?"
The "exact nature of the 'child abuse' should be spelled out in three categories: (1) molestation, (2) masturbation or (3) penetration." She asked "when it is said that Brendan Smyth 'raped' children, does that consistently mean the worst category, number three? An honest inquiry should explain, plainly. Was there penetration in all cases, or were there some cases where the abuse was not category one or two?"
She also criticised an interview with "John" in this newspaper last Saturday about his abuse by Smyth which, she said, "concealed more than it revealed".
She continued: "we were not told the nature of the abuse. He was a 'young teenager' at the time, but we were not informed how young: 13? 14? 15? We were not told why, as a 13- or 14- or 15-year-old, John could not tell his parents – or anyone else – that this abuse of category one, two or three was going on." She concluded by asking "is there any chance that such a totally rigorous inquiry could take place?"
Ms Collins said she was "sickened" on reading the article. The idea that child abuse victims were being "evasive" or less than honest if they did not publicly describe what was done to them by their abuser was, she said, "reprehensible". She asked "why does Ms Kenny feel we need to know all the intimate details? Remember these details have already been heard in a court of law and led to Brendan Smyth's conviction."
Anyone "with the slightest grain of understanding of how child sexual abuse affects a person would know the horrendous effects of the sort of questions Ms Kenny is asking in this article," she said, concluding that "defenders of the church and their handling of child abuse are entitled to express their opinions but those opinions should not be so odious as to cause even further suffering . . ."

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