• One in Four worked with 673 clients in 2019
  • Almost 50% of psychotherapy clients abused in own family
  • 35 clients’ cases came before the courts: delay a major issue
  • 16 cases went to trial: 10 guilty verdicts, 2 guilty pleas, 2 not guilty verdicts, 3 hung juries, 1 case collapsed
  • 42 sex offenders attended our intervention programme
  • Closed psychotherapy waiting lists created fears for suicidal survivors
  • Serious challenges in making child protection notifications to Tusla
  • Survivors of abuse in day schools still waiting for redress

Covid 19 restrictions have had a devastating impact on survivors of child sexual abuse. The normal daily routines of work, school, socialising and family events have always been an important scaffolding to help survivors contain trauma symptoms and this has now been removed.  CEO Maeve Lewis says: ”Our clients have found the changes in lifestyle very difficult to endure.  Freedom from the distractions of normal life increases the intensity of intrusive memories.  Many of our clients are completely overwhelmed by the distress this evokes.  Some tell us of thoughts of suicide. Some younger clients have found themselves back living in the homes where they were abused.  Others tell us of an escalation in violence by their intimate partners. We have continued to deliver our services mainly online and while this has been a crucial support to clients, it is just not as effective as face to face meetings.”

Once the Courts closed in March, 29 clients who were awaiting trial dates were left in limbo.  Maeve Lewis continues: “It is hard to describe the anxiety and fear experienced by survivors who have been brave enough to engage with the criminal justice system as they wait for a trial to start.  Our advocacy officers have been supporting these clients, many of whom will have to wait until late 2021 for a Court date.  Their lives will be put on hold.  This only compounds the long delays already experienced by our clients.”

We usually make about 70 child protection notifications to Tusla each year.  Most of these notifications are third party, in that our clients do not want to engage with a Tusla social worker.  Maeve Lewis continues: “We were delighted in 2019 when we learned that Tusla was introducing a new national protocol for investigating allegations of child abuse.  This would, we hoped, eliminate inconsistent practice across the country and provide clarity as to how notifications were managed.  We have always encouraged our adult clients to give us the name of the person who abused them so that Tusla could properly assess the current risk to children.  However, we have grave concerns about the new protocol.  It seems that Tusla may pass the name of the survivor onto the alleged offender in circumstances that are not clear, and that there is a possibility that the alleged offender would have the right to cross-examine the survivor.  This could potentially place clients in danger of intimidation or worse, and we are very afraid that it may deter survivors from reaching out for support. The policy prioritises the rights of the alleged offender without consideration of the rights of the survivor ”.

In July 2019 the Taoiseach apologised on behalf of the State to people who were sexually abused in day schools before 1992 and acknowledged that the State had misrepresented a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights and in so doing so had denied survivors the right of access to redress to which they were entitled.  Maeve Lewis says “ Many survivors got in touch with us at that time to find out how they could seek redress.  We were promised that the Dept. of Education was reviewing the scheme.  Unfortunately this remains the case over a year later and survivors, many of them now elderly, have been further hurt by this delay.”

Maeve Lewis ends: “Our psychotherapy waiting list was closed for four months in 2019.  This is of huge concern to us as many people who contact us are in crisis. We will always wonder what happened to those people whose mane we could not even put on a waiting list.  This year the demand for psychotherapy has continued to grow and today we have over 50 people on our waiting list, many of whom will be waiting over 5 months to be allocated a therapist.  We are even more concerned now because of COVID19 and the restricted lives many survivors are forced to live.  This is echoed across all the services working with sexual violence.  While we are very grateful to our statutory funders for their current support, we ask that a major review of funding for sexual violence services be undertaken to address the serious gaps in service provision that exists.”


Annual Report 2019: oifar19_webfinal(2).pdf