Monday 19 February 2018

Quantifying the cost

IT is almost impossible to quantify the true cost of sex abuse. Every victim's experience, every offence or series of offences is unique.

Ireland has been counting the cost - human, social and economic, of child sex abuse (CSA) - as well as rape and sexual violence on all age groups, for many decades.

The landmark Sexual Abuse in Ireland (SAVI) Report, published in 2002, revealed for the scale of sexual offending in Ireland.

SAVI noted that one-third of women and one-fourth of men reported child sexual abuse, most of which occurred before age 12.

Even before SAVI, the legal system sought to quantify the cost of sexual abuse through a torrent of civil compensation claims by victims, adults as well as adult survivors of CSA.

The recent case of businessman Anthony Lyons, who - as part of his original sentence - was ordered to pay €75,000 to a woman he sexually assaulted, caused a storm as it was perceived by many that he was able to access his wealth to avoid a lengthier sentence.

He was subsequently sent back to jail for another 18 months and a separate €200,000 settlement he reached with his victim was deemed not to be a relevant mitigating factor by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The Lyons case begged the question: what price abuse? The Economic and Social Research Institute has produced, for the first time, research on the economic impact of those who experience CSA.

The survey revealed that men sexually abused in childhood are three times more likely to be out of work.

The survey, the first of its kind, has shown the long pall cast by abuse and it's impact on victims. It could also have significant implications in litigation now that we have more evidence to help quantify the impact of sexual violence.

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Irish Independent

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