The rising demand at the country’s only dedicated, 24-hour forensic examination unit for child sex abuse victims underlines the “high need” for similar services across the country, a children’s charity has said.
CARI said a report from Casats (the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service), in Galway, raised “the same old issue” that children across the country continued to be denied the right that adults have in accessing sexual assault treatment units.
The charity said the Casarts report also showed that a quarter of offenders are children, and that they are motivated by a range of factors, including “unlimited access” to pornography on smartphones.
The Casats findings are contained within the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) report for 2017. It shows a continuing increase across all six adult SATUs (Cork, Donegal, Galway, Midlands, Dublin, and Waterford), with the total number of attendances rising from 628, in 2014, to 865, in 2017.
The figures record an increase from 64 attendances, in 2014, to 73, in both 2015 and 2016, increasing to 98, in 2017.
Eve Farrelly, manager of CARI’s Child Accompaniment Support Service, said the figures showed a “steady increase”, but said it was difficult to explain the trend.
She said that it could relate to gardaí and social workers being more aware of the service and referring children there for forensic examination.
What was clear, she said, was there was a “high need for services”, saying there was “no other” dedicated service, providing 24-hour care or examination to children aged up to 14.
Ms Farrelly said that, without national data, it was impossible to detail the national situation and, in turn, document what was required.
“Without data, you struggle to identify the issues and therefore the needs,” she said.
“Thankfully, we have Casats, but it is not countrywide. The problem does not just reside in one part of the country, but is the only part of the country that has the data to talk about it.”
She said children were “entitled to the service that every adult has access to” across the country.
Last April, the
revealed that the State’s national body tasked with developing services for victims of child sexual abuse had not met since October, 2016.
The Garda Inspectorate also reported last April that the State had failed to set up such services, even though it had highlighted the need in 2012.
Four dedicated services were to have been set up, but only Galway exists.
There are two assessment and therapy services in Dublin. The new National Children’s Hospital in Dublin will also have a forensic examination service when it opens in 2021.
Ms Farrelly said that the Casats report also shows that 27% of perpetrators of the assaults on children were other children.
Around half were under the age of 13 and a further half were aged between 13 and 17, the figures show.
“That is in keeping with our concerns of a growing rise of sexually harmful behaviour by children,” said Ms Farrelly.
She said there were multiple reasons behind this, including “unlimited access to pornography” by children on smartphones.
She said: “We are living in the world’s first generation gap: Parents who are digital tourists and children who are digital natives and parents can’t keep up.”
Contact CARI on 1890 92 45 67, or cari.ie. For internet safety see: webwise.ie, spunout.ie, ispcc.ie, and wiredsafety.com