Book Chapter Details
Mandatory Fields
Sinéad Ring
2018 October
Revisiting the Ideal Victim Concept. Developments in Critical Victimology.
‘Our most precious possession of all.’ The Survivor of Historical Child Sexual Abuse as the Ideal Victim?”
Bristol University Press
Optional Fields
victimology, historical child sexual abuse,
This Chapter examines the relevance of the ideal victim to understanding the discursive construction of the figure of the historical child sexual abuse survivor in Ireland.  Since Ireland ‘discovered’ historical child sexual abuse as a problem in the 1990s, child abuse survivors have succeeded in gaining public sympathy and societal responses in the form of criminal prosecutions, changes to civil law and official inquiries. The Chapter argues that while the categorisation is helpful in exposing the operation of power in relation to how some people come to gain legitimate victim status, to focus exclusively on the ideal victim as an explanatory framework is to omit an important part of the story. The notion of an ideal victim is of limited applicability because it fails to account for the threat posed by such people to the established order of Church and State, and the entrenched culture of denial around sexual violence against children. The ideal victim trope erases from analysis the victim’s agency in deciding to disclose the abuse after years of silence. Further, it ignores the importance of context in which a victim’s story is made audible to the broader political community; in this case, the role of the broader violence against women and children movement in amplifying the voices of adults who were abused as children. Finally it fails to account for the enduring ambivalence of the Irish State’s reponse to survivors’ claims for justice and commemoration.
Marian Duggan
Grant Details