Safety Device

SAfety Device

(Content Warning: References to Child Sexual Abuse, link to graphic piece on the effects of Child Sexual Abuse)

It’s been an interesting few weeks. As some of you may know, there is a Fear Nua* in my life and I’m enjoying all sorts of things that, for many people are ‘normal’ but for me are beyond any experiences I’ve had to date. It’s all good, though. It’s all good.

I’m not about to gush about him, because he is a far more private person than I am – and I respect that – but also because so much of what’s going on is private and personal to us and to the third entity that is our relationship.

I will, however, say this much: I’ve been learning an awful lot from him. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning is my own value, my own right to be, and my own right to be who I am. I’ve also been crying a lot more than usual, but they have been happy, and / or healing tears. Like last week, when I suddenly had a thought that had my eyes leaking; I’d resigned myself, years ago, to the thought that I would die without ever knowing the love of a good man, without ever knowing what it would it be like to be in a relationship with a man that wasn’t abusive. I really believed that I would die without being in a relationship where I was valued for who I am – or that I would ever be with a man who enjoyed being with me, rather than one who merely wanted to possess me, and crush me. Now, I know that’s not true. And, oh! The joy of that. The absolute fascination with being with someone who values my ideas, my opinions, my thoughts, my mere presence is something I know I can’t adequately explain.

A few days after we met, he mentioned, in the course of conversation, that he had been researching how to be with a woman who had trauma as a result of child sexual abuse. He wanted to know how best to react, how best to treat me, taking my history into account. Reader, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Never, ever, ever, has a man I’ve been with, or even a man I’ve been married to, shown the slightest bit of interest in finding out how they could make being in a relationship easier for me. I knew, then and there, that he was A Keeper.

Then, yesterday, he presented me with the bracelet you see pictured above. It’s a safety device, and I’ll explain why.  Having already read this piece, he was anxious to work with me to ameliorate the effects any way he could. We were making progress, but then he had an idea. He reminds me that I have chosen him. That I choose him, repeatedly, every day, every hour, every moment that we are together. That I could choose to walk away, but I am choosing to stay because I am choosing him. As he is, likewise, choosing me. He needs me to feel safe. To know that I am safe with him, everywhere, all the time, no matter what. He would prefer if I stayed present when we’re together, because he is no threat to me, and I need to know that, and be able to remember that, and remind myself of that any time I feel I need to.

This bracelet serves that purpose: by simply seeing it, I am reminded of him, reminded that I am always safe with him. Touching it has the same effect, and – if I move my wrist slightly – the tags you can see chime gently, providing an aural reminder.  As my friend Jane Mulcahy noted, tweeted to me ‘It’s v lovely & delicate, H. Like affection, intimacy & trust.’  I think she put it perfectly. This piece of jewellery has the added bonus of being beautiful. A bit like himself, really.

*In Irish,
Fear Nua (pronounced Farr Nooa) means ‘New Man’.



No Country For Pregnant Women

Yes, yes, I know…’re sick of hearing me banging on about pregnancy and the state of maternity “care” in Ireland.

But it’s getting worse, not better.  I heard from Jene Kelly at AIMSI (the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services, Ireland) today. She told me a shocking tale. Alas, I have to report that I am shocked, but not surprised. This is how women are treated in Ireland. We are still second class citizens, we are still treated as though we are incapable of making informed decisions for and about ourselves. We are still subjected to a patronizing, patriarchal maternity system that, crucially, is not evidence-based

This past weekend, as the nation celebrated International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, an Irish Maternity Hospital initiated an invasive procedure on a pregnant woman against her will. ‘Mother A’ was denied patient autonomy and the right to informed refusal when the drastic and unprecedented measure of an emergency High Court sitting was called in order to compel her to undergo a Caesarian section. The risk of uterine rupture was cited as one of the main reasons for the urgency in this case but this risk is widely reported as being 0.1% or 1/1000. This is what Dr. Michael Turner, Obstetrician at the Coombe Hospital has called: “exaggerated, professional scaremongering…and it must stop” (VBAC Conference, 2012).

State-sanctioned coercion of medical procedures on pregnant women or any other competent adult is not only unacceptable but it is also unlawful in other jurisdictions, such as the USA and the UK (Re AC [1990] & Re S [1998]). ‘Informed consent’ and ‘informed refusal’ abuses are common issues reported to AIMS Ireland by women.

Imagine if ‘Mother A’ was your mother, or your sister, or your cousin, or your daughter, or your friend, or your partner or your wife, or you.

Jene Kelly, of AIMS Ireland, states: “there is an overwhelming acceptance by the public and some maternity service providers in Ireland that a pregnant woman’s right to informed consent, or informed refusal, is not reliable and that women who exert their rights are selfish. It is this mentality that has allowed atrocities such as symphysiotomies, miscarriage misdiagnoses, unnecessary hysterectomies by Dr Neary and all the other reported assaults against women by our maternity system to continue to go unanswered in Ireland for so long. This is no country for pregnant women. ”


AIMS Ireland reports that women who are bullied into consenting do not fulfill the principles of informed consent and therefore are entitled to sue the doctors for assault. For example, a woman who was forced to have a caesarean section against her wishes in the UK sued the doctors (Ms S v St George’s NHS Hospital Trust, 1998) and was awarded £36,000 damages. It is time that Irish women did the same. Threatening women, bringing women to the high court, removing women’s rights and choices – these bullyboy tactics do not promote trust between women and their care providers. How can you trust a system that doesn’t acknowledge your rights? Women are choosing to leave the system as a result.

Annette is one of these women. She is lobbying the HSE for a homebirth following a previous Caesarean section. The HSE currently does not recognize informed choice for homebirth for women who fall outside strict exclusion criteria in site of a European Court of Human Rights ruling recognizing a woman’s right to decide how and where she births. Annette does not meet criteria following her previous Caesarean, despite having subsequent successful vaginal births. Annette asks: “Is it HSE policy to use the High Court as a method of intimidation and coercion, when a patient tries to exercise her right to informed decision making, as laid out by the European Court of Human Rights (Ternovsky v Hungary, Under Article 8)? We are humans, with great intellect. We are capable of informed discussion and decisions regarding our pregnancies and births in the best interests of ourselves, our babies and our families. I feel anger, disappointment and bewilderment. Today as a woman and mother, I grieve.”

Keep ‘Em Safe

About a fortnight ago, I had a piece in The Irish Examiner about child abduction. That was followed up by an appearance on Irish national TV where I gave an interview on the topic. Just yesterday, I spoke about the issue again, this time on radio.

The interest in child abduction and how to prevent it has led me to believe that more people are concerned about the issue than I had first thought. I have, therefore, decided to post about it here, and pass on the tips and information that I have in this regard.

While some of the things I have to say are very specifically pertinent to Irish parents, and those resident in Ireland, most are universal.

  • To keep your children safe, establish with them and with the school, who exactly is allowed to pick them up from school. If there is to be a deviation from this norm, for whatever reason, you must let the school know in writing. For example, if the rule is that only you are allowed to collect the children from school, but on Monday you have a dental appointment and can’t, you write to your child’s teacher explaining that your sister, Rose, will be picking up Little Johnny from school today. Make sure your children know who will be picking them up as well.
  • Have a ‘safe’ word, or ‘password’, that only you, your child and your child’s teacher know just in case you are incapacitated and need to send someone else to pick your kids up from school. Unless the person claiming to have the authority to pick up your child freely gives that word, your child is not to be released to them and the Gardaí are to be called.
  • Re-visit the rules of stranger danger and that your children are not to get in to a car with a stranger no matter what that stranger tells them. Unless the stranger knows the safeword.
  • Remember, if your ex wants to abduct your child/ren he or she may not do it personally; they may send a relative or friend to do it on their behalf.
  • Have an ‘identification pack’ ready just in case your child/ren is/are taken from you. That pack should include:

1. Around six copies of a recent photograph (update the photograph every month.

2. Height and weight (again, take these measurements and record them regularly)

3. A DNA sample – this doesn’t need to be anything dramatic, the child’s hair pulled from the hairbrush after you’ve brushed it, or their toothbrush will do fine.

4. If your child wears glasses, take pictures of them with and without their specs.

5. If your child has long hair, take pictures of them with their hair down and also pulled back – so it looks short.

6. A written description of your child, with as much detail as possible anything you can think of that could help someone identify your child is useful.

For example – Mary is X’Y” (Z cms ) tall, she weighs 25kgs and has shoulder length blonde hair with a fringe. Mary has a scar on the back of  her left hand from where she cut it when she fell last year. She has a slight stammer and is afraid of cats.

  • Become hyper-aware of what your children wear when they go out to play every day. Really look at them and train yourself to know how they were dressed. If they wear a school uniform, make sure you know the details of their school bags – any logos, badges etc.
  • The Hague Agreement offers some protection to abducted children. It is an agreement between countries that states a child taken by the non-custodial parent will be returned to the custodial parent.
  • Get your children on the ‘Stop Pass’ list. This is a list held by the Passport Office. If you worry that someone may attempt to get a passport for your child by claiming that the one they have has been lost, you can have your child added to the ‘Stop Pass’ list. You need to give grounds, substantiate your claims and confirm that you have your child’s passport, that you keep it safely and ask that no one be allowed to receive a new passport for your child but you. You will receive written confirmation from the Passport Office that your child is on the list.
  • Remember that if your child has been living in Ireland for more than twelve months and one day, they are deemed to be ‘legally resident’ here. That means that they fall under Irish jurisdiction and the Irish legal system governs their welfare.
  • A ruling in a country outside the EU has no bearing whatsoever on you.
  • To enforce a ruling in Ireland, the side that has been awarded it needs to apply for a ‘mirror order’ which is an application to the Irish courts to have a ruling similar to the one made abroad made in an Irish court. In other words, someone who is awarded custody of your child in, say, Israel, would need to apply to an Irish Court of the same level (i.e. circuit court here to match circuit court there) to make the same ruling in Ireland. Then it can be enforced here. An Irish court will only grant a mirror order if it is satisfied that to do so puts the rights of the child first.
  • Irish courts are most concerned with the rights of the child. The mother’s rights and the father’s rights come after the best interest of the child.
  • If you have serious grounds for concern, approach your local Gardaí. They will listen to you and, if they agree that your concern is valid, will open a file for you.
  • If you can, apply for sole custody of your child. This provides some legal clout here and in a number of countries abroad. You have more of a leg to stand on if your ex does swoop in and take your child because the court here will not just award sole custody just because one parent asks for it. They will notify the other parent (no matter where they live) of the proceedings and invite them to be part of the proceedings. If they do not show up, or send a legal representative or if they do not impress the judge sufficiently as to why sole custody should not be awarded, only then will one parent be awarded sole custody
  • In the event that your ex needs a visa to come to Ireland, notify the Irish Embassy in the country where your ex lives that there is a concern regarding abduction. While the Embassy cannot refuse to grant a visa just because you ask them to, they will make note of your fears and attach a reference to those fears when the visa application is forwarded to the Dept of Foreign Affairs. Abduction of Irish citizens is a very serious matter and is taken very seriously. It helps if you have a case file with your local Gardaí that you can quote the number of in your correspondence with the Irish Embassy abroad.
  • If your child is eligible for Irish citizenship – for whatever reason – make sure they have it.
Finally, if you need further advice or help, you can contact, a wonderful organisation in the UK. Reunite offers support and advice to those who fear their children will be abducted, those whose children have been taken and those seeking to reach an agreement on access. Their website is