Maeve Lewis is a practising psychotherapist who has dedicated her professional life to working for and with victims of sexual abuse. As a human rights advocate, she has worked tirelessly to transform societal attitudes and has implemented effective programmes of support and recognition for victims and survivors across Europe and Africa.
Maeve Lewis and her five sisters grew up in Nenagh in a happy household where her dedicated parents instilled a love of learning in their children. All six girls progressed to higher education, which was an incredible feat in 1970s Ireland. After graduating in 1979 from NIHE’s flagship humanities programme, the Bachelor of Arts in European Studies, Maeve pursued a Higher Diploma in Education from Trinity College Dublin. While working as a teacher, she volunteered with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and decided to retrain as a psychotherapist. Her dedication to excellence in the field of psychotherapy is evidenced in her qualifications: her rape counsellor training in 1986 was followed in the 1990s with a degree in psychology, a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychotherapy and, more recently, a three-year Advanced Certificate in Group Analytic Psychotherapy. Maeve’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge is matched by a fearless commitment to imparting such knowledge, and for that the world is truly a better place.
Over a three-year period, in response to the atrocities of the Yugoslavian civil war, Maeve Lewis designed and managed a Department of Foreign Affairs-funded counsellor training programme in Croatia and Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. The models she developed continue to be used, most recently in Kosovo. From 1995 to 2008, Maeve acted as a consultant working with Irish non-profit organisations in conjunction with Irish Aid in some of the world’s most troubled sites of intense trauma. She worked as a consultant for Trócaire and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist in the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda from 1992 to 1998. When she started working in Rwanda, the country was devastated by the trauma of genocide but had no tradition of psychotherapy, and she immediately set about designing and delivering a sustainable, culturally appropriate counsellor training programme. With her assistance, the counsellors she trained formed the Association Rwandaise de Conseillers de Traumatisme and established the National Trauma Centre in Kigali. They continue to train counsellors and maintain a network of trauma centres throughout Rwanda.
Maeve simultaneously worked to develop cognate programmes elsewhere in Africa. She undertook a needs assessment for the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Programme – funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – in Lukole Refugee Camp, Tanzania, home to 100,000 Burundian refugees. Following this field visit in 1999, she developed recommendations in relation to training for local NGO staff, police, medical personnel and refugee leaders. From 2000 to 2005, she developed and delivered a culturally appropriate psychotherapeutic response to the needs of traumatised African Christian Brothers who had lived through 10 years of civil war in Sierra Leone. This work included intensive group psychotherapy and targeted individual interventions.
Since 2008, Maeve Lewis has been Chief Executive Officer of One in Four, a Dublin-based, non-profit organisation that provides psychotherapy and advocacy services to adult survivors of child sexual abuse and their families. As CEO, Maeve leads a team of professional psychotherapists and advocacy officers in developing a unique response to child sexual abuse. The only organisation in Ireland to work with survivors of child sexual abuse and their families, One in Four offers a sex offender intervention programme to break the cycle of child sexual abuse. As part of her work with One in Four, Maeve engages with policymakers at all levels to ensure that legislation and statutory procedures meet the needs of vulnerable clients.
Maeve Lewis served as a member of the National Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy from 2012 to 2014. Today, she finds time to act as Co-Chair of the Department of Justice Crime Victims Forum; as NGO representative on the Department of Justice High Level Review Group on The Role of An Garda Síochána in the public prosecution system; and as a member of the Monitoring Committee of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
Maeve’s enormous contribution to the field of psychotherapy is recognised internationally. She is one of only two Irish people to be an accredited expert witness at the International Criminal Court. In 2015, she undertook clinical assessments of four rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and gave evidence before the Court. Since then, she regularly delivers training courses on sexual trauma to prosecutors and investigators at the Court.
Maeve Lewis was deeply influential in shaping recent Irish legislation, including the Children First Act, 2015; the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act, 2017; and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, 2017. She is routinely called upon as an expert to provide measured commentary on historical sexual abuse on national and global media channels. In a national context, as evidenced by her extensive media contributions, she repeatedly raises public awareness of the tragedy of child sexual abuse and the needs of survivors. She has been at the forefront of developing progressive, respectful and compassionate solutions to the complex ramifications of sexual violence, both nationally and internationally, and in campaigning for and designing effective child protection strategies.
Today, University of Limerick honours alumna Maeve Lewis for her remarkable expertise and leadership in psychology, law, policymaking and advocacy. On behalf of the countless number of sexual abuse and trauma victims whose lives have been changed for the better by her work, this university salutes Maeve Lewis and takes great pride in bestowing upon her one of its highest honours.
Chancellor, I present to you Maeve Lewis and ask that you confer upon her the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.