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Clergy Just Tiny Fraction Of Abusers
Sunday Business Post, 7 December 2003, by Vincent Browne

The scale of sexual abuse and rape in Irish society is shocking, as revealed in a report by the organisation that undertook the survey of clerical abuse for the Irish Catholic Bishops.

Only a tiny fraction of abusers are members of the clergy and only a miniscule proportion of these sexual crimes are reported to the gardai or, indeed, to anyone else. It is an epidemic of enormous proportions, one largely ignored or diminished by the state, politicians and commentators.

The startling facts of abuse are:

* One in five women (20.4 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood and a further one in ten reporting non-contact sexual abuse. (That is 30 per cent of all women being sexually abused as children.)

* More than one in 20 women (5.6 per cent), over 110,000 in all,were raped as children.

* One in five women reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults with 6.1 per cent of women experiencing unwanted penetrative sex (ie rape). That is over 76,000 women raped during their adulthood.

* One in six men (16.2 per cent) reported experiencing sexual abuse in childhood, with a further one in 14 reporting non-contact abuse.

* 2.7 per cent of all men were subjected to penetrative sex (anal or oral sex) in childhood. That is around 12,000 men raped as children.

* One in ten men (9.7 per cent) experienced contact sexual assault as adults and 0.9 per cent of men were subjected to unwanted penetrative sex as adults.

* Most of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse were men (89 per cent) acting alone.

* In the case of those who abused girls, a quarter were family members, half were nonfa m ily but known to the abused girl and a quarter were strangers.

* In the case of the abuse of boys, only one in seven (14 per cent) was a family member, two-thirds were non-family but known to the abused boy and only one in five were strangers.

* Only a small fraction of child sex abusers (3.7 per cent) were members of the clergy and a smaller fraction (2.5 per cent) were fathers.

* In the case of sexual violence against adult women, one-quarter of the perpetrators were partners or ex-partners.

These startling revelations are in a report, Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI), undertaken by the Health Services Research Centre at the Department of Psychology, Royal College of Surgeons, the body that conducted the recently published report on clerical abuse.

The report was commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Over 3,000 people, randomly selected, were interviewed anonymously by telephone.

This information was published a year ago, but caused little fuss. Remarkably, only 47 per cent of those who disclosed information to the interviewers for this survey said they had reported the abuse to anybody else. The remainder had never previously disclosed it.

A tiny fraction (1 per cent) of men who had been abused as an adult, and only 7.8 per cent of women had reported their experiences to the gardai. In the case of child sex abuse, only about 10 per cent of victims reported their abuse to the gardai.

The phenomenon of sexual crime is by far the most startling of all criminality in the state andyetalmostno attention is focused on it, apart from clerical sex abuse, which is a minor, almost incidental, part of the problem, although, obviously neither minor nor incidental for the victims of clerical abuse.

For those of us who have ranted for ages about clerical abuse, perhaps a more balanced assessment of the phenomenon is overdue.

(The report commissioned by the Irish bishops on clerical child sexual abuse, Time to Listen, is published by Liffey Press.The SAVI report is published under the title Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland is also published by Liffey Press.)