Surge in sex assault calls to helpline

CARI, the voluntary support body providing therapy and support to those affected by child sexual abuse, has reported 1,417 calls to their helpline over the past year.

Its national clinical director, Dr Niall Muldoon, said calls relating to sexualised behaviour increased by 38% since 2009, while calls concerning rape and sexual assault rose by 17%.

Research carried out some years ago indicated one in five people in Ireland experienced child sexual abuse which, according to the 2006 census, would equate to 847,970 people.

That report showed 47% of women and 60% of men who suffered sexual abuse in their childhood never told anyone until they spoke to researchers.

The CARI report says the awareness of this type of abuse has increased since the late 1980s when it was largely taboo to speak of it.

Between 2006 and 2010, CARI provided an average of 2,350 hours of therapy per year for about 100 families. CARI chief executive Mary Flaherty called for legislation to ensure separate legal representation or some other legal remedy for victims, who are only witnesses in the trial, to ensure their rights are protected.

Dr Muldoon said in this situation it will be almost impossible to offer therapy while a judicial case is still ongoing. If that becomes the norm then a child may be waiting as long as two years before therapeutic work can begin.

CARI operates two full time centres — one in Limerick and the other in Dublin. It also provides a two day service in Cork and has provided outreach therapy sessions in Kerry, Meath, Wicklow and Galway.

* CARI: 1890 924567.

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