Family sex abuse the ‘untold story in our society’

SEXUAL abuse within families is the untold story of our society, according to the head of a support group for victims of sexual abuse.

Maeve Lewis of One in Four said that while there was rightly great upset over clerical abuse of children, more often than not, children are abused by members of their own family.

Ms Lewis’s comments came after the HSE and gardaí confirmed another alleged case of serious sexual assault involving a family in the west of Ireland.

The fresh claims come just months after a Co Roscommon mother was convicted of incest, and the abuse and neglect of her six children.

The latest case in the same region involves another family with a large number of children, some of whom have made statements claiming their parents committed incest.

The couple’s two eldest children, now in their mid-to-late 20s, are understood to have denied being abused by their parents.

However, the next five children are claiming they and a number of their younger siblings were subjected to a shocking litany of abuse in the family home.

As well as violent sexual abuse, allegations of extreme neglect were also made.

The children involved are now aged between 10 and their early 20s.

According to the HSE, the children are now in care and are accessing all of the appropriate supports and services to meet their needs.

Following an initial two-year investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute even though gardaí recommended charges against both parents.

The case, however, is now being re-examined by gardaí.

Ms Lewis said cases of child sex abuse were notoriously difficult to prosecute and often when the DPP does not proceed with cases, it is because there is insufficient evidence for trial.

“The DPP believes it is better not to go ahead unless there is a strong possibility for conviction. This is for the sake of the victim.”

But she said this decision often leaves victims feeling they are not believed.

“It is extremely difficult for a victim to give evidence against a member of a family who has abused them. Often they say it is just as traumatic as the abuse itself.”

Ms Lewis said when there is abuse within a family, trends show that fathers, uncles and brothers often featured as abusers.

She said if one child is being abused usually others in the family are too.

“The entire family will usually know what is going on, so it has a terrible effect on everyone.”

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