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Sex abuse charity reveals suicide toll for those awaiting counselling

Published 07/10/2015

Maeve Lewis said the state's child protection services were in disarray
Maeve Lewis said the state's child protection services were in disarray

A leading sex abuse charity has revealed three people have died by suicide while on a waiting list to see counsellors.

As it highlighted a lack of funding for services, the One In Four group hit out at the criminal justice system with a warning that victims are not encouraged to come forward and are not taken seriously.

Last year the charity had to close its waiting list for services for four months as it could not afford to pay enough counsellors and it also revealed that it has now recorded three suicides over a four year period.

The charity claimed survivors of abuse are increasingly being dealt with by young gardai who lack the experience and necessary training to deal sensitively with their cases.

Chief executive Maeve Lewis said: "This is a major concern.

"For the minority of cases that actually go to trial, victims consistently describe the experience as alienating and re-traumatising.

"Is it any wonder that fewer than 5% of child sex abusers are ever convicted?"

One In Four said it counselled 116 survivors of abuse and 43 families last year and gave advice to 672 people.

Ms Lewis said the State's child protection services are in disarray despite the creation of Tusla: The Child and Family Agency.

She claimed there are inconsistencies across the country on protection issues, poor assessments of risk and unhappiness in One in Four over the way social workers treat distressed survivors of abuse.

Other findings from the annual review included fewer than 15% of One In Four's clients made a complaint to gardai.

Counsellors also worked with 32 sex offenders - one third of them men aged 18-25 - their wives and partners.

Ms Lewis described the numbers of men seeking to access One In Four's Phoenix Programme for sex offenders as "the tip of the iceberg".

One In Four said more than half the men who accessed it sexually abused children in their own families but warned that most offenders it sees will never be convicted because their victims do not want to make a complaint.

"This means that there are dangerous individuals in every community in this country who are able to continue abusing children," Ms Lewis said.

One In Four said Ireland's criminal justice system does not force sex offenders to account for their actions.

Ms Lewis added: "We know that good intervention programmes are effective and stop re-offending. We need to have a national network of treatment programmes for non-convicted in every county in Ireland if children are to be safe."

One In Four also attacked the Government over its handling of Louise O'Keefe's claim for compensation after being abused by her principal in primary school.

Ultimately the Cork woman was vindicated by the European court of Human Rights but the charity accused the Department of Education of taking a "narrow view" of the ruling, rather than honouring the spirit of it, which will preclude hundreds of survivors from receiving compensation

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