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False Allegations of Child Abuse

Child Abuse Allegations
Irish Times, March 05, 2004

Madam, - Having read Breda O'Brien's column "The falsely accused have their truths to tell", (Opinion, February 21st), I feel it is essential to respond.

Breda O'Brien is incorrect in her implied suggestion that One in Four was critical of the British False Memory Society for suggesting that there may be fraudulent allegations of abuse. One in Four criticised the BFMS and LOVE for their ill-informed assertion that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse "encouraged people who had not been abused to seek compensation and to accuse innocent people of abusing them" - a claim that is patently without foundation as the commission has nothing whatsoever to do with awarding compensation to victims of abuse.

We were also critical of the ill-founded and misinformed criticism of psychotherapy and counselling as a therapeutic tool for people who have been abused and the denial of the prevalence of sexual abuse in Ireland.

We were not alone in such criticism. Other services such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre voiced similar concerns.

Ms O'Brien criticised One in Four for not attending the recent meeting of the British False Memory Society and LOVE and for not listening to the views expressed at that meeting. In fact One in Four was not invited to that closed and private meeting. It might have been appropriate for Ms O'Brien to have first established whether or not the attendance of any individual organisation was possible before making such a judgment.

Perhaps at the same time Ms O'Brien would care to properly inform herself about One in Four's position on malicious or fraudulent allegations of sexual abuse. For the record and for her convenience, One in Four has always expressed the view that where a system of compensation operates it is entirely possible, indeed likely, that individuals will seek to defraud that system. In the case of the Residential Institutions Redress Board severe sanctions are enshrined within the legislation that enacted the board, should such fraud be uncovered. Those guilty of making false or fraudulent applications to the board are liable to receive a fine of up to €25,000 and or three years imprisonment.

Making a false, malicious or fraudulent allegation of sexual abuse is a serious crime. It is the responsibility of all citizens to report any knowledge of such crimes to An Garda Síocáana. Since October 2003 we have called for the organisation LOVE to give all evidence of such crimes to the Garda. To date and to my best knowledge they have not. We would again ask that they fulfil their duty as citizens and hand any such evidence to the Garda.

It is perhaps easier for LOVE to suggest that "30 per cent of all allegations of abuse are false" - a completely unsupported assertion - than to demonstrate that there is significant abuse of the system. It is easier for the British False Memory Society to suggest that Irish victims of abuse are "deluded" and that the Irish "sex abuse myth" is the result of our gift of being "great storytellers" than it is to produce any substantive scientific proof of the existence of either so-called "false memory syndrome" or the widespread manufacturing of false allegations of sexual abuse by, as Ms Margaret Jervis so inappropriately puts it, "a new priesthood of therapists".

We agree with Ms O'Brien's view that organisations which advocate for those who have experienced sexual abuse and those who have in fact been falsely accused have a common interest in preventing false claims. That common interest must be the pursuit of the truth. The truth will not, however, be achieved by scattering of pseudo-science and half-baked theory. - Yours, etc.,

COLM O'GORMAN, Director, One in Four, Holles Street, Dublin 2.