Political parties are being urged to back €600,000 in funding to clear a year-plus- long therapy waiting list for children who have been sexually abused.
Voluntary support group Cari said it has 85 children on its waiting list for therapy — all of them waiting over a year.
Executive director Eve Farrelly said these children “struggle to cope with day to day life” and that children as young as eight are presenting with thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
“We are now approaching the 33rd election of this State and Cari is entering its 31st year of support for vulnerable children,” she said.
“We know from our work that mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, addictions, gambling, drugs, harmful sexual behaviour in adults, alcoholism, and suicide often have their roots in childhood sexual abuse.
As a society, we are paying huge money into the impact of abuse untreated, not into the treatment that will prevent these social problems. I am urging the Government to regroup in their thinking on this.
Ms Farrelly said the battle children go through in trying to deal with abuse is very visible.
“They struggle with social isolation in the classroom and playground, bed-wetting, panic attacks, fear and anxiety, nightmares, and guilt,” she said. “Their world has become a very unsafe place.”
“Children as young as eight years old present with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. It is well documented that when left untreated they can go on to develop difficulties as adults.
“The delays in responding to children subject to the same crime is causing huge anguish and distress for children and their families.”
Ms Farrelly said the lack of funds forced Cari to take drastic action some years ago.
“Cari outreach services in Cork, Tralee, Galway all had to close due to lack of funding,” she said. “The closure of these vital outreach services had a profound impact on clients. The impact on individual children and families was very distressing.”
She said there are specialist services in every region for adults who have experienced sexual abuse, but the services for children are “completely inadequate”.
Ms Farrelly said: “It costs €7,000 for a child and their family to come to us for one year’s therapy.
With 85 children on our waiting list that is nearly €600,000. We only receive half of this.
This month, Cari is running an online information campaign #FEBaware aimed at empowering parents and children to start talking about issues such as sexually harmful behaviour, peer-to- peer abuse among teenagers, and grooming.