Lost in Translation: The Legal appropriation of the voice of child sexual abuse victims in Ireland
McDonough, Aine (2010) Lost in Translation: The Legal appropriation of the voice of child sexual abuse victims in Ireland. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This thesis sets out to examine the way in which legal reasoning constructs child sexual abuse in general, and how that works in Ireland in particular. In order to examine from a sociological perspective the construction of sexual abuse I apply a critical framework derived from feminist studies, Foucault‘s theory of knowledge and power and postcolonial/subaltern theories to highlight the foundations of the knowledge constructions involved. This critical approach is brought to bear on the aspects of knowledge, power, discourse and voice encountered in the data set of the Appellate Court decisions from 1930 to 2004 and the accounts of survivors. In all 3,000 pages of legal opinion were analysed along with five published auto/biographical texts recounting personal stories of child sexual abuse. The main contention of this research, arising from this examination is that the focus of judicial concern is the law as opposed to justice. The law it seems has a natural scepticism regarding the value of other knowledges, including knowledges produced by victims. Legal knowledge is derived from tradition, and in particular a patriarchal tradition, as this study among others shows. The theoretical framework adapted allows for an analysis of shortcomings of the Irish legal system in relation to its processing of child sexual abuse cases. The essential properties of objective rationality in law are held in constant tension with the requirement to affirm the cultural and subjective reality of child sexual abuse. This research thesis concludes that unless the judiciary comes to open critical reflection on their practices the legal institution must be deemed unequal to the task of dealing with child sexual abuse. All of this is predicated on the argument, and the central finding of this thesis, that victims‘ voices, child or adult, are lost in the translation to legal truth.
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