Belfast Telegraph

Huge rise in abuse support demand

The number of child sex abuse victims seeking support soared by 214% following the publication of two reports on paedophile priests.

The One in Four charity said demand for its advocacy and psychotherapy services more than doubled in 2009 once the Ryan and Murphy reports backed up the stories that victims of institutional and clerical abuse had been trying to tell for decades.

A total of 1,432 survivors of sexual violence looked for help last year, compared with 672 in 2008.

Maeve Lewis, the charity's executive director, said the publications encouraged people to reach out for help, in the expectation that they would be believed.

"Deciding to make a complaint of sexual abuse requires enormous courage," she said. "Unfortunately, many of our clients are failed by the child protection and criminal justice systems.

"The HSE (Health Service Executive) response varies enormously, and some child protection concerns are never even investigated. While the Garda work very hard to engage sensitively with victims, the criminal courts remain an arena where victims can be annihilated by archaic, tortuous procedures."

The charity's annual report also showed 371 clients attended the psychotherapy programme for individual, family and group therapy in 2009. The majority - 44% - had been abused within their families, while 27% were abused by priests or religious officials, 23% by neighbours and professionals, and 6% by strangers.

The biggest demand was for advocacy support, with 1,140 clients seeking help in contacting the Garda, reporting child protection concerns to the HSE, engaging with Catholic Church authorities and other practical support. Some 60% of these were abused within the Catholic Church.

The charity also said that 21 men had engaged with the One in Four sex offender treatment programme.

Ms Lewis said good community-based treatment was proven to work, and helped keep children safe. "As recent controversies show, we have a long way to go as a society before we accept the reality that sex offenders, convicted or not, live in every community in Ireland," she said.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph