Nearly 50% of reported abuse happened at home

Nearly half of all abuse reported by callers to a specialist telephone service occurred within the family home, new figures show.

And while women accounted for two-thirds of callers, men outnumbered women in many rural counties.

Connect, a free, out-of-hours helpline for abuse survivors, also said that following the announcement of the mother-and-baby home inquiry, they had received more calls from family members of people who spent time in these institutions.

Figures for the first half of 2014 show that Connect answered 2,600 calls and that almost 70% of callers reported physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Of these:

-45% of callers reported that the abuse happened within the family home;

-26% reported that they had experienced abuse in their community;

-15% reported the abuse occurred in institutions.

Connect's service manager, Theresa Merrigan, said the figures go against the common perception that abuse in Ireland has been largely an institutional problem.

She said the figures highlighted a higher prevalence in the family setting, particularly relating to more recent abuse.

The figures show that 71% of callers were aged under 50 and 28% of callers were under 40. The majority of the latter group reported abuse within the family home. None of the callers under 40 reported institutional abuse.

Overall, 32% of calls were from men, 66% from women, and 2% transgender. It said the number of male callers from rural areas was increasing, and in some instances, surpassed female callers.

In Cavan, Kilkenny, Longford, Meath, Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford, Sligo and Wexford, the ratio of male to female callers was around 2:1.

Ms Merrigan said male callers often reported being isolated and unable, or unwilling, to access face-to-face services and prefer telephone-based support. The announcement of the mother-and-baby home inquiry, and subsequent expansion of the Connect service to open seven days a week from mid-June to the end of July, had resulted in more calls from family members of people who spent time in institutions.

Ms Merrigan said many callers had exhausted services elsewhere: “The high level of need among many callers to Connect points to a lack of intense psychotherapy places for callers with severe childhood trauma. Very often, the challenging behaviour of people who have suffered severe childhood trauma means they find it difficult to access adequate services.

“This is an ongoing concern for the Connect Service which is telephone-based and therefore unable to provide callers with all the supports that they need. It can be difficult to know where to signpost such callers to as they often have difficult relationships with their local mental health team or psychiatrist.”

-Connect: freephone 1800 477 477 or 00800 477 477 77 from Northern Ireland and the UK. See HERE


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