Sexually abused young immigrants seek help here

A GROWING number of unaccompanied young immigrants, who have been sexually abused in their homelands, are seeking help on arrival here.

This phenomenon is a developing area of the work of Children At Risk in Ireland (CARI), the organisation reported yesterday.

“They often find themselves without the support systems in place to access the interventions they need, including therapy,” says CARI’s 2003 report.

“Many of these children find themselves struggling with multiple layers of trauma and discrimination,” according to national director Mary Flaherty.

Noting an increase in the number of teenage rapes being reported, CARI says it is trying to “fill the gap” where there is an inadequate service for 16 to 18-year-olds.

Mothers, at 37%, are the single largest category of callers to the helpline. As in previous years, child sexual abuse within the family was the single largest category of concern for helpline callers.

CARI received 1,147 calls last year, compared with 1,398 in 2002. The smaller number of calls is reflected in the nearly doubling of the average length of a helpline call, from 30 minutes to 58 minutes.

National clinical director Alan Corbett says there are various causes for the duration increase. CARI is often the first port of call for parents who have just discovered their child has been sexually abused.

Shortages in social work support has meant CARI now has to fill the gap in providing services to children affected by sexual abuse.

“Our work with children cannot exist in isolation, but due to systemic failings - mainly resource based - social workers are under pressure to close cases once they have been referred to us,” said Ms Flaherty.

The net result of this is that CARI is becoming the only agency supporting particular clients, she said.

“This situation is an untenable one.

“We see our therapy as needing to work alongside other interventions aimed at explicitly addressing the practical problems faced by those we work with,” she added.

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