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Innocents Crushed in the Wake of Abuse Accusations

Rachel Andrews, Florence Horsman Hogan: LOVE
Sunday Tribune, November 16, 2003


OVER two months ago, The Sunday Tribune reported that a new support group, Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), had been set up to "give a voice to the laity and to support the religious through the current abuse crisis." The group also made it clear it was there to counteract "false claims of child abuse." It appears to have opened the floodgates. Since that report, the founder of LOVE, Florence Horsman Hogan, has been contacted by numerous current and former religious, who say they have been falsely accused of child abuse. She has been contacted by lay people who were in residential institutions and had overwhelmingly positive experiences. And she has been contacted by family members of the former religious such as the women in the accompanying article caught up in a crisis not of their making and becoming increasingly desperate.

Other media have also begun to report on the issue of "false claims", conducting interviews with former Christian Brothers whose cases have been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions, but who are still being contacted by the Redress Board and the Laffoy Commission. The term 'witchhunt' has begun to be bandied about.

This renewed and different media interest, along with the encouragement of LOVE, prompted the most recent statement by the Christian Brothers, revealed exclusively in The Sunday Tribune, which said the organisation "did not now accept the widespread perception that there was widespread, systematic sexual abuse" in its institutions.

Innocents Crushed in the Wake of Abuse Accusations
Falsely accused and families say they are the present day victims, blighted by stigma and isolation

Sunday Tribune 16 November 2003, Rachel Andrews

SHE doesn't think about suicide any more. She doesn't lie awake at nights planning to drive into the sea with the family. "I felt it was the easiest thing to do, " she whispers through her tears."I thought it would take the pain away from everybody." She couldn't do it. As a committed Catholic, she felt she had no right to interfere with somebody else's life. She goes on living, goes on focusing on making the dinner, cleaning the house, getting her child ready for school. It's a quiet life and if you saw her walking on the beach with her dog, you would have no idea that, for nine years, she has been dead on the inside. "I exist, " she says, "from one day to the next." Set in her memory is the day her life changed forever.

She wasn't even in the house when the knock came on the door, and the gardaí standing outside told her husband they wanted to question him over allegations of child abuse. But she can still reel off the date and time when it happened.

Her husband didn't tell her for three months, protecting her. When he did, she collapsed. "I couldn't cope. I used to walk my child to school in a state of terror. Whenever I saw a garda car, I froze." Thinking back, she hardly recognises the woman she was before all this happened. She had been married for 16 years.

Her husband and herself had met late, a few years after he left the Christian Brothers.

Both were in their 30s. But it was a sound union, with the usual ups and downs of marriage. They had their children, they had their friends. She lived in a town back then. A friendly sort, she knew her neighbours.

But the fear of gossip and finger-pointing drove her and her husband out, down the country, to a rural area. Now she doesn't know who is living next door. In the circumstances, the isolation suits her, because she can't talk to people any more, or reveal anything of her true self. But it's crushing her, too. "It's the biggest problem, " she says.

She could never have imagined this happening, never have thought that the man she watched being so kind and caring towards his children, so totally unselfish, would become the subject of numerous allegations of child abuse, and spend his days going back and forth between his home and the courts in Dublin.

She says she never believed the accusations, not for a second. But others believed him guilty, including, she says, the gardaí, who pressurised her husband to admit to even one of the lesser cases. Her husband had to leave his school, where he was happy and wellliked. Now, only one teacher will talk to him.

Nine years on, the terror has not lessened. She spends her days praying and walking, and her nights thanking god that another day has ended without anything too bad having happened. "We are living through a nightmare. I couldn't describe it to anybody.

It is the worst possible thing that could happen to anybody." They call themselves the present day victims, this woman and others like her.

That is the term that Florence Horsman-Hogan, founder of the support group Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), also gives them. They have criticised the government for helping child abuse victims, but doing nothing to support the current victims of false claims.

One man, a former Christian Brother, has contacted at least 10 senior politicians on the issue of false claims. Nothing has been said. "The gardaí are not doing their job. The courts are not doing their job. The politicians don't give a damn, " says his wife, who believes she would be dead by now had it not been for her own faith and her love of her husband and family.

"The attraction of suicide is very strong all the time, " she says, trembling. "I just think of the peace of the water, but I would hurt too many people." She's been inconsolable before, this woman. Her baby died at just a few months of age and she has had several miscarriages. But in each case, time healed the pain. "It was natural, and I can look back on the time with my baby with joy. This is evil." So what now? Both women are hoping, praying, expecting their husbands to be found not guilty. But the damage has been done.

"My husband has lost his good name, " says one woman.

"He has been deprived of the right to work. He has had a good career ruined. We don't go out. If we do, we come back in bits because we see other people living normally. The only place we feel secure is inside our own home." Above all, it's the shame and the stigma that is killing her.

"Mud sticks, " she says through clenched teeth. "Do you think anyone who has been accused of child abuse will ever be viewed as innocent again. Do you?"

November 16, 2003


Calls for Policing of Abuse Claims

Sunday Tribune, 4 January 2004

THE Irish public needs to "wake up" to the irresponsible policing of abuse claims, the organisation Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE) has said.

Love said this weekend that the decision to allow "emotional neglect" as part of the terms of reference of the Redress Board is wrong, and is showing a blatant disregard for the taxpayer.

The organisation said that the failure to put even adequate restrictions on abuse claims means that anyone who was in residential care in the past has a right to claim compensation.

Once claimants can prove their lives were affected by emotional neglect, for example, that they went on to receive treatment for alcoholism, depression or mental illness, they can receive on average €150,000.

However, Love maintains that people who were placed in residential institutions were often affected even before they went into care, as their own parents couldn't or wouldn't take care of them and that even if they had not gone into care they would have developed these conditions anyway.

To seek compensation on that basis is wrong and for the Redress Board to allow it is an abuse of its position and an insult to those genuinely abused.

The organisation said it was urging the Irish public to wake up and call for more responsible policing of abuse claims by the Redress Board.

"Our financial resources are already badly stretched by the present health/education systems and to allow the Redress Board full power to use our financial resources in the payment of claims without accountability is an indulgence that we, the Irish taxpayers, can't afford, " said Florence Horsman-Hogan, spokeswoman for the organisation.