‘Frightening’ level of sexual abuse in our communities: Bishop of Derry

Bishop Donal McKeown.
Bishop Donal McKeown.

Huge numbers of sexual abuse victims live in our communities, the Bishop of Derry has told Massgoers in the city.

Likening abuse victims to the “walking wounded”, Dr. Donal McKeown said society must commit itself to “do what it can to reduce the frightening level of such abuse in our communities.”

Speaking at St Eugene’s Cathedral on the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Abuse, Bishop McKeown said many victims of abuse were “screaming inside - but nothing comes out.”

He added: “There are a lot of people in this city and country who are crying silent screams.”

The Bishop added: “Our schools contain lots of children whose lives have been scarred by what happened to them in their helplessness. I do not know what lies behind many smiling faces or cases of addiction. But behind every person whose life or relationships are in trouble, there lies a story. And, for most people, that is a story that will not be told. At the beginning of Lent, it is important that we accept that very uncomfortable truth.”

Dr. McKeown said it was an acceptance of this very truth that was important for those who had suffered.

“They are not just cold statistics,” he said. “They are people who have been badly hurt in their bodies, people whose hearts have been scarred by the actions of others. The first step of the hard Lenten journey is to be ready to hear the scream – and not to run away from it, no matter how uncomfortable that scream may make us feel, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be.”

“On this Worldwide Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of sexual abuse, we remember the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters – and we commit ourselves to walk with the Jesus who is in solidarity with anyone who suffers. Our prayer is for those who are in pain, because of what was done to them – and for a generous compassionate heart in all of us. It entails a commitment to do what we can to reduce the frightening level of such abuse in our communities.”