Joyce Kavanagh mailed me a copy of the book she co-wrote with her sisters June and Paula and their friend Marian Quinn, called Click, Click, all the way from Ireland. It’s a harrowing account of the abuse they suffered at the hands of their own father, who dominated their lives not only when they were children but even when they were young adults, until they finally worked up the courage to report him to authorities. I won’t lie: the accounts of sexual abuse in the book are brutal, and there is no attempt to cushion the blow for the reader. It hits you out of the blue, with little preparation, which I suppose is rather like the way the Kavanagh siblings experienced it. Each of the sisters gets at least one account, but their stories are shockingly similar. ‘Da’ as they call him would isolate each of the girls and snap his fingers twice (hence the book’s title), expecting them to drop their panties and spread their legs for him. There was no attempt to be gentle or win the girls over to the idea; it was just flat out rape every time.
This, of course, is often how incestuous situational abuse plays out, and as is usually the case in these situations, the abuse wasn’t just sexual—the girls were subjected to every form of abuse imaginable from the time they were toddlers through their adolescence. Perhaps the worst thing about their experiences was how Da made each girl feel isolated and alone in her abuse, demolishing their security and sense of self-worth, despite the fact that the house was positively filled with kids all the time. Many people may wonder how their mother wasn’t aware of the abuse, but the fact is, people can go to great lengths to deny a horrifying truth about someone they care about, and to be sure, the man controlled and abused his wife as well, reducing her self-esteem to the point where she questioned everything she did or believed.
Each instance of abuse described in the book is worse than the last, and the details of the abuse (how Da forced the little girls to wrap their limbs around him as he raped them, his godawful bodily stench, etc.) staggers the mind. The term ‘survivor’ often gets bandied about to described victims of abuse, but in the case of the Kavanagh sisters it couldn’t be more accurate. How these sensitive young ladies survived this horror for years on end, let alone the fact that they came out of it without being utterly bitter and hateful towards the world, is something I can’t even imagine. On top of all that, for them to come forward and publicly lay claim to the hell their father put them through just to assure he doesn’t do it to anyone else, is beyond heroic.
And yet, the women at times display a concern for their father that borders on saintly, like when June worries about how he will fare in prison. They must constantly remind themselves what he put them through. What most strikes me about Da’s abuse of his daughters is that he seemed to get off on the very notion of destroying their innocence. It cannot be a coincidence that the first time he raped each girl was the day of their first communion, whilst they were still wearing their communion dresses! It’s as if he couldn’t stand to see anything pure, sweet and holy without immediately corrupting it. And what was meant to be one of the happiest days of their life was thoroughly ruined.
Several times while reading the book I openly wept, wishing I could be there to give them all a big hug and a vow to protect them. I wish I could go back in time and rescue them from this monster masquerading as their pop. I can’t do that, but what I can do is assure them that I will fight to make sure no little girl (or boy) ever has to go through this hell again.
I don’t believe Kevin Kavanagh was a true pedophile; he bears all the classic signs of being a situational offender. I don’t have a lot of advice about preventing abuse from this type of offender because their motivations are completely different from mine, but I can speak to my fellow pedophiles and urge them to read books like Click, Click, so that they understand the reality of sexual abuse rather than the romanticized version they may have erected in their minds. We need to read books like Click, Click and Margaux Fragoso’s Tiger, Tiger (where the abuser was a genuine pedophile) so that we can see the untarnished truth, the grubby details and the long-term pain that children who have been through it face every day. As pedophiles, we must constantly remind ourselves of the real consequences of sexually violating children, and this is what it looks like. Therefore, I want to thank Joyce, June and Paula Kavanagh in a way they likely never anticipated: as a pedophile determined not to offend, they have given me yet another brick, and a powerful one, to add to the wall of my resolve.
Going forward, I wish the Kavanaghs all the best in life, but it’s clear they already have the best thing they could possibly have in their continuing fight to lead happy, healthy lives: each other. I often close my emails with the phrase, “Peace, love & light,” and I can’t think of a better way to close out this review, so . . . peace, love & light, folks.