Abuse is a difficult subject. Domestic, or as in the case of Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí, or institutional. According to the US Institute of Medicine, disruption of the behaviour is an effective means to change patterns.
The trouble is that perpetrators like Ó Lubhlaí and Jimmy Saville are often adept at hiding their activities even whilst holding a prominent place in public life. It’s worth listening to the experiences of Jahmene Douglas and his mother Mandy Thomas (http://goo.gl/gW8Kb starts about 2.20 in) not simply for the harrowing experience, but for how the conversation concludes:
Jenni Murray: How much do you fear your ex husband will be able to trace you again
Mandy Thomas: I think he had the means to do it any way. And like Jahmene just said, I think that being in the public eye may make him step in the shadows. Before he was in control of everything and he was holding us and pinning us. We weren’t in the outside world to speak. And now we’ve got the whole of the world listening to what we have to say. And I think that’s made him go into the shadows.
It’s the very secrecy of the act coupled with the social isolation of the victims that give continuing licence to the perpetrator. In this case though, even jail was not enough to disrupt the actions.
The handling of victims in large scale cases often falls short, like that in Rochdale last year, such that some victims end up withdrawing from what is a harrowing process with no guarantee of successful outcome.
Jahmene and his mum were ‘lucky’ in the sense that their release from the worry (if not the danger posed by their abuser) came via a breakthrough into public life. With that came the sense that they could speak, tell their story and expect to be listened to.
Sadly too few victims of abuse have such luck and find themselves persevering with appalling circumstances similar to those suffered by Jahmene and his mother ad infinitum.
It’s a reminder that abuse is not simply a matter of putting historical issues right, but one for ongoing awareness and where it can be taken action in the here and now.
Jahmene Douglas is now an Ambassador for Children and Young People with Womens Aid…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty