A RETIRED Limerick-based garda inspector has been named the Limerick Person of the Month for going “beyond the call of duty” in his work with child victims of sexual abuse.
John O’Reilly who retired from An Garda Siochana in June of this year after 30 years of service, said he was “honoured and humbled” to accept the award.
The Galway native who spent 20 years stationed in Limerick City – primarily at Henry Street garda station – has, for the past 15 years, assisted CARI - the Ennis Road based charity which helps young victims of sexual abuse and their families to come to terms with the abuse.
“It is a privilege to be associated with CARI,” said John on accepting his award at the Clarion Hotel this week.
“I want to pay tribute to Anne Byrnes and the work she has done with CARI. She is a great loss to CARI and to the city,” he added.
Anne, who was the senior development executive with CARI, passed away last month after losing her battle with cancer.
John’s involvement with CARI came about after he got chatting to Majella Ryan of Westbury at the official opening of Mayorstone garda station.
According to Majella - who is CARI’s acting national clinical director - John has always “gone beyond the call of duty” in terms of helping abuse victims. While he assisted the charity through his position in An Garda Siochana, he also offered his services outside of work hours. John continues to assist the charity “with a heart and a half”.
“He has really helped children who are in a very highly anxious state, to really feel at ease and feel safer. He is excellent in terms of reassuring children and supporting them at what is a really difficult and traumatic time,” Majella explained.
“He continues to support them long after the investigation has been complete.”
As part of their training, members of An Garda Siochana are educated on violence against women and children in areas such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.
However, John decided to pursue further studies in the area. He completed a diploma in Child Psychology with HSI in Limerick and did a Masters in Child Protection and Welfare at Trinity College, Dublin.
“Unfortunately, there are a high number of cases,” said John in relation to the incidences of sexual abuse against children in Limerick. National statistics show one in five children in Ireland are abused.
CARI has two full time centres in Dublin and Limerick and also provides a two-day service in Cork. CARI works with children ranging in age from three years up to 18. The form of therapy offered depends on the age and needs of the child. “We would work with them through play, art, drama and talk therapy. We also support non-abusing parents or carers because often the whole family is traumatised by what has occurred,” Majella explained.
John is also a hypnotherapist focusing on cognitive behaviour in the areas of trauma, behavioural changes, phobias and anxiety and uses these skills in assisting victims of sexual abuse.
His advice to victims of sexual abuse who have not yet spoken about their experiences or sought help, is to “talk to somebody”.
“There is help out there – go and talk to somebody, whoever they feel comfortable taking to. They have done nothing wrong and there are people who want to help them,” said John who was accompanied at the award presentation by his fiancée Deborah Small, who he is due to marry next year.
Meanwhile, John has penned a new book, Sex Slavery – The Way Back, which focuses on how human trafficking for sexual exploitation impacts on victims. The book is available from www.victimsliberation.com.
See next week’s edition for more.