‘Hollow’ apologies over child sex abuse

Apologies by governments for historical child sexual abuse “ring hollow” when children continue to be abused by the system, a leading charity has said.

Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI), which provides therapeutic services to sexually abused children, said that the lack of services nationally was harming “a new generation of forgotten children” to whom an apology will need to be given one day.

CARI said if these children are left unsupported, many struggle to cope and that children as young as eight experience thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

CARI therapy supervisor Monica Murphy said the lack of services for such children was “a shocking scandal”. CARI runs a therapeutic service in Dublin and Limerick, while statutory services are only available in Dublin.

Speaking at the launch of CARI annual report for 2013 and 2014, she said: “There are huge gaps in the provision of services. Where you live in Ireland may decide whether a service is available or not. Therapeutic services are urgently needed at a regional and national level.”

She said CARI had been trying to bridge this gap, but has had to shut services in Cork, Naas, and Wicklow due to funding cuts. The reduction of funding has also resulted in the number of therapists it has being cut by a third. This has had the effect of a 29% cut in therapy hours available to children and their families.

“It feels like we are swimming against the tide for funding,” said Ms Murphy.

“National apologies for past practices ring hollow when children continue to be abused by an inadequate system. The sad irony is that the lack of services and practice is harming a new generation of forgotten children to whom a national apology will one day be owed.”

CARI chief executive Mary Flaherty said the charity has suffered “impossibly difficult budgetary pressures” since 2009. She said it was unacceptable that there were waiting lists at their Dublin and Limerick centres and that children can be waiting up to a year to be seen.

The report said that given an appropriate therapeutic space these children “can go on to lead a fulfilling life”.

Addressing the launch, Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly said he would “like to see more investment” in the area. He told the media afterwards that the lack of services nationally was “something this Government needs to look at — no doubt about that”.

The report, which said 3,000 children report sexual abuse every year, comes just days after the sixth anniversary of the damning Ryan report — the commission into child abuse at religious institutions. The CARI report said a new Child Advocates service in Galway — where a staff member supports children attending the sexual assault and treatment unit — was the first of its kind. Figures showed that 58% of children using the service were pre-schoolers. The most common age was four years old, with the youngest child being an infant of eight months.

Helpline: 1890 92 45 67; helpline@cari.ie; www.cari.ie 

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