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Victim Fury as Brothers Deny Abuse 'Widespread'

Irish Independent, October 27 2003 by Ben Quinn

SEXUAL abuse victims last night reacted furiously to a denial by the Christian Brothers that systematic abuse was widespread in their institutions.

Victims accused the Order of trying to rewrite history.

The Brothers maintained that more than 95pc of their members had worked in ordinary day schools for up to 40 years without any allegation or hint of complaint against them.

It rejected "the now established perception" of widespread systematic sexual abuse in its residential institutions.

While acknowledging that "some abuse" did take place, the Order said allegations had been made against many of their members, the vast majority of whom strongly rejected the claims.

Groups representing abuse victims reacted angrily to the statement.

The One in Four organisation described it as a "return to the blanket denial which characterised the Christian Brothers approach to the issue of sexual abuse prior to 1999".

Its clinical director Therese Gaynor said the content and tone of the statement would cause further deep hurt to those who suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse in institutions and day schools run by the Brothers.

The Brothers' statement was backed up by an organisation called Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE).

This comprises former pupils and residents of religious-run institutions.

A spokeswoman said they wanted to show "the positive side" of being raised by the Brothers.

She said conditions in the homes involved were better than had been portrayed.

Florence Horsman Hogan, a founder of LOVE and former industrial school pupil, also claimed there was mounting anecdotal evidence that a large number of claims by alleged victims for compensation were fraudulent.

Brother Edmund Garvey of the Christian Brothers Communications Office said the Order had made the statement after being approached by LOVE.

He claimed "a very small number were prosecuted" out of the significant number of files that had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions on alleged sexual abuse.

But where Brothers were ultimately innocent of charges against them, the current climate prevented them from publicly proclaiming their innocence for fear of offending someone else, he added.

The last thing the Order wanted to do was offend anyone who had suffered sexual abuse, he said.

But the statements came under attack from Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), and Christine Buckley, who set up Aislinn to help victims of institutional abuse.

She said LOVE sought to downplay the "reign of terror" at places such as Goldenbridge. She claimed its members were "gloating" about their good childhood experiences while thousands of others had suffered.

She said it was "extremely sad" that the Christian Brothers had "decided to retract" an apology they had made to abuse victims.

"It clearly shows that they have no comprehension of the damage that was caused."

SOCA spokesperson John Kelly said his group was "appalled and angry" at the Christian Brothers statement.

He claimed it implied the majority of the thousands of survivors who made police statements and applied to the Laffoy Commission are liars.

"We resent this implication and find it deeply offensive."


Critical Reaction to Statement from Brothers

The Irish Times - Monday, October 27, 2003 by Kitty Holland

Groups working with victims of clerical sexual abuse have criticised a statement by the Christian Brothers on sexual abuse allegations.

In a statement issued at lunchtime yesterday, the Christian Brothers said they did "not accept the now widespread perception that there was widespread, systematic sexual abuse" in their residences.

While they had "openly acknowledged that some abuse did take place", the vast majority of those brothers and former brothers against whom allegations have been made "strenuously refute the allegations and strongly protest their innocence".

The statement said it was worth noting that "over 95 per cent of these men worked in ordinary day schools for up to 40 years without any allegation or hint of complaint against them.

"It should also be noted that many complainants name people who do not correspond with any person who worked with the residential institutions or who had been a member of the Christian Brothers."

The One In Four organisation, a support group for people who have experienced sexual abuse, described the statement as "a highly regrettable backward step" and "hugely unhelpful at this sensitive point.

"It represents a return to the mindset of blanket denial which characterised the Christian Brothers' approach to the issue of abuse prior to 1999."

Ms Therese Gaynor, clinical director with the charity, said those who would find it most offensive were "the many victims seeking support from One In Four who, as day pupils in schools run by the Christian Brothers, experienced significant levels of all forms of abuse".

Mr John Kelly, co-ordinator of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), said the brothers' statement "beggars belief", and it was "in effect saying to victims 'you're liars and we don't believe you'. The brothers may not have been found guilty yet, but they certainly haven't been found innocent either."

He continued: "They are saying there was not widespread systematic abuse. The only body that can ascertain that is the Laffoy Commission and they have set out to destroy it."

Earlier this month the High Court ruled against the Christian Brothers' argument that the Laffoy Commission should not hear allegations against deceased, infirm, or untraceable brothers.

The Brothers are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ms Gaynor, of One In Four, described the statement as an attempt to "rewrite history of widespread abuse perpetrated by members of the Christian Brothers", and said it "should only serve to further strengthen political resolve for the early reinstatement of the Laffoy Commission investigation".

An organisation established by people raised in residential schools has supported the statement by the brothers.

Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), some of whose members spent time in homes including Golden Bridge and St Joseph's Industrial School in Kilkenny, said abuse was not as widespread as had been alleged.


LOVE's Abuse Claims Dismissed

The Irish Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Groups working with victims of clerical sex abuse have called on a newly-formed group supporting members of religious congregations to "put up or shut up" in its claims that numerous allegations are spurious.

They were reacting to a statement from Ms Florence Horseman-Hogan, founder of Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), that "people are coming up with scars they got accidentally and saying they were abused".

Ms Horseman-Hogan said: "What we have are people right across the board saying 'You back up my allegations and I'll split the compensation with you'."

Describing the statement as "outrageous and deeply offensive", Mr John Kelly, co-ordinator of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), said his group had been inundated with angry and upset victims.

Mr Kelly said people did not make allegations lightly and that spurious ones were quickly identified.

"Victims who make criminal allegations are forced to undergo rigorous interrogation by the police," he said.

They "have to go through the ordeal of being cross-examined and having their claims validated by up to 15 senior and junior counsel at the Laffoy inquiry".

Mr Colm O'Gorman, of the One In Four organisation, said the charity had accompanied many victims to the Laffoy commission.

"I can tell you it is a pretty horrific experience, not just in terms of having to attend it but in terms of the level of detail they require, and psychiatric reports. It is not a pleasant or easy experience."

He and Mr Kelly both called on Ms Horseman-Hogan to go to the Garda if she knew of false allegations and to withdraw her claim if she was not going to do so.

Mr O'Gorman said those in LOVE should do so "as a matter of urgency", adding that if One in Four came across such false allegations they would report them immediately."It is a criminal offence to make false allegations like that."

A spokeswoman for LOVE, Ms Mary Walsh, speaking on Louth-Meath Radio (LMFM), said the organisation would pass on all its information about alleged false claims to the Garda.

Mr O'Gorman said it was "a phenomenon surrounding sex and child abuse" that people do not want it to be so. "The reality is that false allegations are incredibly rare."