Stop It Now! Ireland Conference: A pivotal moment in the fight against child sexual abuse in Ireland
14 September 2023
Today, Google welcomes us for the first in-person Stop It Now! Ireland conference in Dublin. The event, called Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: A Public Health Approach, brings together experts and key professionals responsible for child protection to discuss strategies to eradicate child sexual abuse and exploitation in Ireland.
“We are extremely grateful to Google for hosting our first in-person Stop It Now conference in Dublin,” said Donald Findlater, Director of Stop It Now UK and Ireland, who added, “this event comes at a critical time as we seek to put prevention, especially the prevention of child sexual abuse, at the top of the child protection agenda in Ireland and we are thrilled to welcome expert speakers from across the field.”
Child sexual abuse: an epidemic
This conference follows stark statistics published earlier this year by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) which found that 41% of young people (aged between 18 and 24) had “experienced sexual violence as children”. Recent CSO data also suggests that nearly 30% of all adults in Ireland have experienced sexual violence as a child and the issue has been described as reaching “epidemic levels”.
“The conference aims to help shift the narrative – from one of response after abuse to one of preventing harm before it happens,” said Donald, adding that “this involves recognising child sexual abuse as an epidemic that directly affects over one in 10 children; an epidemic that requires a public health response.”
With numbers in Ireland concerning, the Stop It Now Ireland conference aims to change the narrative around child sexual abuse to bring the fight ‘upstream’ and put prevention to the top of the child protection agenda among Ireland’s criminal justice and child protection agencies, health, voluntary sector and non-government organisations.
Donald, who has been part of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation since 1995, says he is “heartened by the enthusiasm for this event shown by child protection professionals in Ireland, highlighting the eagerness to drive progress in this area” and added that he hopes to “harness this momentum and ensure real and lasting change results, helping all adults play their part in protecting children.”
The event emphasizes the need for a public health approach to preventing child sexual abuse offline, and increasingly across online platforms.
Eileen Finnegan, Chair of the Stop It Now! Irish Action Group and forensic psychotherapist. Eileen is the former chair of the National Organisation for the Treatment of Abuse (NOTA) Ireland and began work on the launch of the Stop It Now Ireland project in 2019.
Donald Findlater, Stop It Now! UK & Ireland. Donald is a Director of Stop It Now! UK & Ireland and has been part of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation since 1995. In 2002, he set up Stop It Now! UK & Ireland and Circles of Support and Accountability, and recently initiated the online child sexual abuse deterrence campaign.
Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children. Niall’s background is as a clinical psychologist and he has worked in the area of child protection for almost 20 years. Before becoming Ombudsman for Children in 2015, Niall worked at the Ombudsman for Children (OCO) as Director of Investigations, and before that, he was the national clinical director of The Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) Foundation.
JP O’Sullivan, MECPATHS, a non-profit organisation focusing specifically on the issue of Child Trafficking, in Ireland, has 20 years of experience working in the areas of Child Safeguarding, Protection, Advocacy and Anti-Trafficking. Since 2017, JP has been working with MECPATHS, co-developing training for front-line professionals to identify child victims of trafficking in Ireland.
Marcella Leonard MBE, Leonard Consultancy. Marcella is a Director of Leonard Consultancy. She specialised in assessment and therapy in the fields of sexuality, sexual deviancy and trauma with both victims and perpetrators. She was awarded NSPCC and Association of Child Protection Practitioners UK Child Protection Trainer of the Year 2019.
Dr Maggie Brennan, Dublin City University. Dr Maggie Brennan is an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Dublin City University, and co-founded ‘CyberSafeKids’. She has worked on research and policy development initiatives to combat Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) for over 20 years.
Exciting developments in Ireland
Donald finished by saying “it has been a privilege to direct the work of Stop It Now! across the UK over these last 21 years, and to help establish independent Stop It Now! projects in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Australia”.
“Along with Stop It Now! US,” concluded Donald, “we have accomplished much together and I look forward to our next exciting developments here in Ireland.”