The number of teenage rapes and gang rapes is an increasing cause of concern, a support group for victims of child abuse warned today.
The annual report from Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) showed 91 calls had been made to the group over the last year regarding rape, with almost two thirds relating to gang rape.
Alan Corbett, CARI clinical director, said if the effects of child sexual abuse were not dealt with at a young age, then psychological problems would become more severe over time.
“If your hands are tied as an agency in terms of providing therapy or counselling to a teenager, you may then find ten years later an adult experiencing all sorts of long term problems, mental health, depression, self harm, eating disorders, the list is a long one,” he said.
Mr Corbett said it was a particularly complex issue as parental consent was needed before children could be brought in for counselling.
“We need as a country to really review the whole parental consent issue, we need to make sure there can be more teen friendly services available to this particular age group,” he said.
But he warned that a survey of Rape Crisis Centres around the country had found a wide range of disparity in how counselling was offered. Often groups ignore the need for consent and are only concerned with helping the child, he noted.
“We do really need to tackle it at policy and procedure stage,” he said.
Mr Corbett said a review of the legal system was needed in order to increase the proportion of sex abuse cases that are brought before the courts.
The 2004 report said the majority of cases the group dealt with involved sexual abuse within the family.
It showed 36% of cases related to abuse in the home while 28% of cases involved a perpetrator from outside the family.
“There is this perception I think that still exists that abuse is often a stranger danger phenomenon, and what we are reminding people of is that actually the most dangerous place to be can be within the family,” he said.