October 7, 2015
One in Four said today at the launch of their 2014 Annual report that not nearly enough is being done to keep children safe from sexual harm. Executive Director Maeve Lewis said “Ireland has a long way to go before we become a society where lives are not blighted by child sexual abuse. One in four Irish people experience sexual abuse. Most children do not tell. We have to rely on the testimony of adult survivors to get a true picture of child sexual abuse. But do we really encourage adults to come forward? Are their accounts taken seriously by child protection services when they report the person who abused them and is still active in the community? Have we a criminal justice system in place that forces sex offenders to account for their actions? The answer sadly is no.”
In 2014 One in Four provided counselling to 116 survivors and to 43 families, a total of 2,643 therapy hours. Our advocacy officers provided practical information and support to 672 people.
The men and women we meet at One in Four are people we all know – family members, friends, colleagues – but sexual abuse is still a dirty secret in our society. Survivors are still locked into lives of shame and secrecy, until they pluck up the courage to reach out for help. Then, with our expert support, they can really transform their lives and live to their full potential. In 2014 we had to close our waiting list for 4 months because we could not afford to employ enough counsellors. This is a truly terrible situation. We know that in the past 4 years 3 people have taken their own lives before we could even meet them, a terrible, preventable tragedy.
At One in Four we can ensure that clients are supported on every step of their journey. But our clients also have to engage with statutory agencies. We notify child protection services of all allegations of sexual abuse because we know that even if the abuse happened years ago, that sex offender may still be abusing other children. Maeve Lewis continues: “We were very heartened when the new Child and Family Agency, Tusla, was set up in early 2014 and hoped that the response to historic allegations would improve. Despite policy and legislative developments, we still meet a child protection service in disarray, with inconsistent responses across the country and poor assessments of risk. We are also not always happy with the way anxious, distressed clients are treated by social workers.”
Fewer than 15% of our clients decide to make a complaint to the Gardai. In the past, those who made a complaint generally met well- trained, experienced Gardai who could handle an investigation in a sensitive and professional manner. Increasingly, survivors are meeting young Gardai who do not have the training or experience to engage sensitively with our clients. This is a major concern. For the minority of cases that actually go to trial, victims consistently describe the experience as alienating and re-traumatising. Maeve Lewis asks: “Is it any wonder that fewer than 5% of child sex abusers are ever convicted?”
During 2014 Louise O’Keefe won her case against the Irish state in the European Court of Human Rights. She had been sexually abused by her school principal while in primary school. She sued the State right up to the Supreme Court without success. She courageously pursued to case to the European court of Human Rights who held that Louise’s human rights had been breached by the State’s failure to protect her from child sexual abuse. This encouraged a large number of people who had also been sexually abused in school to contact One in Four for support. Sadly, the Dept. of Education is interpreting the European judgement in an extremely narrow way that will preclude hundreds of survivors from receiving compensation. Maeve Lewis continues: “The Dept. of Education had the opportunity to honour the spirit of the European judgement and put in place a compensation scheme for all genuine claimants but instead choose a very narrow option. What does this say about their understanding of their responsibilities to protect children?”
In 2014 we worked with 32 sex offenders and their wives and partners. 34% of the offenders were young men aged 18 -25.
Maeve Lewis said “During the past year sex offenders have travelled from all over the country to access the Phoenix Programme, our sex offender intervention programme. This is the tip of the iceberg. The majority of these men (53%) sexually abused children in their own families, others abused children they came into contact with in their own communities. Most will never be convicted for their offences because their victims do not want to make a complaint to the Gardai. This means that there are dangerous individuals in every community in this country who are able to continue abusing children. We know that good intervention programmes are effective and stop re-offending. We need to have a national network of treatment programmes for non-convicted in every county in Ireland if children are to be safe.”
Maeve Lewis ends: "In 20 years’ time we will have another Ryan report focusing on the failures of statutory services and professionals to protect the children of this generation. We can make a different choice now. We must encourage adult survivors to come forward and take very seriously their accounts of their child hood experiences. If we are to keep children safe we must have the commitment and resources to put in place an effective child protection system and a criminal justice system that honours the experience of victims of serious sexual crimes, making sure that sex offenders cannot continue to act with impunity”
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October 1, 2015
Over the last few weeks our supporters have been sending in their words of support and encouragement to the women and men that visit One In Four.
Would you like to send your own supportive words? If so, please use the blank slip below and return to us at 2 Holles Street, Dublin 2, D02 FP40. Alternatively, you can e-mail us your address and we'll post you out a blank slip. If you would like to also include a donation we would be very grateful.
September 23, 2015
One in Four today welcomes the publication of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015.
The Bill is a wide ranging document which addresses many of the gaps and disparities which exist in the laws relating to sexual offences. There is much to commend in the Bill but there are also disappointments.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “This Bill attempts to address the scourge of online sexual exploitation of children and aims to protect children against grooming and online predators. It strengthens the law on the production and possession of images of child sexual abuse and introduces appropriately heavy penalties for these offences.”
The Bill also clarifies the law in relation to the age of consent. While the age of consent remains at 17 years, the Bill sensibly incorporates a provision recognising that younger teenagers may engage in consensual sexual activity and seeks not to criminalise people of the same age. However, a weakness in the Bill is that it does not define what actually constitutes “consent”.
“For the first time in Ireland it will become an offence to purchase sex and I welcome this warmly. I hope this may go some way to reducing the devastation caused by trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable women through prostitution”.
Maeve Lewis continues: “The Bill introduces for the first time some real protection for the disclosure of counselling notes during a criminal trial. An alleged abuser will no longer be able to seek disclosure as a fishing expedition in an attempt to discredit the alleged victim but will have to give clear reasons why counselling notes should be produced. I strongly believe that counselling notes should be totally excluded from a criminal trial, but nonetheless welcome this measure as a first step towards total privacy for counselling notes”.
“A major step forward is the prohibition on the cross examination of a person under 18 years by the accused person in a criminal trial. However it is imperative that this exclusion should be extended to all victims of sexual crime, as is the case in England and Wales. It is horrifying to think that a victim of sexual violence should be subjected to a verbal assault in court by the person who violated them in the first place. This must be changed.”
September 17, 2015
We're delighted to give you our Autumn 2015 newsletter below. If you would like to have these delivered directly to you in the future then please sign up with your postal address here.
September 16, 2015
An international conference focused on the treatment of sexually aggressive adults and adolescents will hear that developing a national research agenda is a key component in the prevention of sexual abuse. Among the key points raised will be the need for international standards for definitions of sexual abuse, the collection of detailed abuse-related data and agreed mechanisms to evaluate approaches to reducing abuse as part of this research.
The annual NOTA (National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers) International conference will be held in Dublin over the next three days from Wednesday 16th – Friday 18th September. NOTA is a charity and professional association which aims to protect children by improving practice and policy responses to sexual offenders of all ages. This is the second time this conference has been held in Dublin and will be attended by more than 300 professionals from the UK, Northern Ireland and the RoI who work with sexually aggressive individuals.
The requirements under the 2011 Sex Offenders Act differ for the 1,420 convicted sex offenders in Ireland;
Some will have been in custody but have no post release supervision requirements
Some will be subject to Probation Supervision upon release or part of a suspended sentence arrangement. This number currently stands at 200 and these 200 convicted offenders are managed under SORAM (Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management) and there are 28 multi-agency SORAM teams across the country. If at SORAM the offenders are considered to be low risk then they will be referred back for a single agency response (i.e. Probation or Gardai and or a support service)
Some will be subject to notification in accordance with legislation and will have an assigned Garda Case Manager in what is known as a single agency response
Adult offenders not subject to Probation Supervision may avail of therapy from private services and One in Four also provides a therapeutic programme for adults (The Phoenix Programme) who have sexually offended and not subject to Probation or supervision requirements.
Speaking in advance of the NOTA conference, Professor Simon Hackett, Durham Colleges, UK and Chair Elect, NOTA said “Sexual offending which includes such crimes as rape, paedophilia, sodomy, and sexual abuse (including on-line abuse) is a major public health issue and prevention and management is a collaborative process by all professionals working in the field.”
“Achieving a public health approach to sexual abuse prevention in every developed country is key. This needs to include the development of a national research agenda. This agenda should further include the development of international standards for definitions of sexual abuse and the collection of abuse related data. This will all enhance international comparisons and collaboration between non-governmental agencies and organisations. Creating a mechanism to evaluate approaches to reducing abuse and publicising these results is also paramount. In addition there is a need to educate the media to improve reporting on abuse, to integrate prevention into social and educational policies and to empower people to respond to all sexually problematic behaviours, not just major offences will also aid the public health approach to prevention.” continued Professor Hackett.
Speakers at the NOTA Conference will also look specifically at the management of adolescents that sexually offend. One agency that treats young people, male and female, between the ages of 13 and 18 years who have sexually abused and their parents/carers is NIAP (North Interagency Partnership) in Dublin which is funded by TUSLA (Child and Family Agency.) National and international research and crime statistics suggest one-fifth to two-thirds of sexual abuse is committed by children and young people.
Since its establishment in 1991, NIAP has worked with 267 young people who have sexually abused and with their parents/carers. NIAP works with approximately 40-50 young people in any one year. The majority of young people remain living in their family home but a small percentage live in foster care and or residential care, though not solely due to their inappropriate sexualised behaviour. In recent years the context of abuse by the young people attending NIAP was both intra-familial and extra-familial. For example in 2013, out of the 11 new referrals to NIAP, four were intra-familial and five were extra-familial. The data shows a higher representation of female victims under 10 years of age but does also include adult rapes and assaults.
Also speaking in advance of the NOTA conference, Joan Cherry, Director, NIAP said “NIAP works to assist young people who sexually abuse to control their abusive behaviour, to enable parents and carers to understand the dynamics of abuse and to support them in caring for their child, to protect the community from sexual abuse by these young people. NIAP also offers an advice, consultation and training service to other practitioners and managers in the field of adolescent sexual abuse.”