Failure to address the issue of child sexual abuse
According to the SAVI report: Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland one in five women (20.4 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood. One in six men reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood. The government has done little to address this problem of child sexual abuse.
Some of the major recommendations made in the SAVI report were that information on sexual abuse and on services available to abused people were needed, and that the issue of disclosure and how best to deal with it needed to be addressed.
In relation to a provision of information the report recommended a public awareness campaign and key to this was a national helpline. The report said that a public launch of this should happen in 2003.
The Department of Justice ran a campaign in relation to rape and sexual assault. However, there has never been a nationwide campaign addressing the issue of child sexual abuse. Additionally no national helpline has been opened. As a result of the Ferns Report recommendations, the Government announced that they would conduct an awareness campaign on child sexual abuse.
In relation to information on services, SAVI recommended that posters, leaflets, video and internet resources be provided to give information on the services available. Village asked the HSE what information on services had been developed since SAVI. They said “posters free-phone lines, and material published by voluntary groups which are funded in the main by the HSE…. Health Promotion have developed leaflets… information leaflets about counselling service have been widely circulated.”
In relation to disclosure the SAVI report recommended that a multi-agency group be set up to identify and a propose methods of reducing barriers to disclosure. This has not been done.
Central to the recommendations of the SAVI report was that a Consultative Committee on Sexual Violence be set up. This has not been done and instead, the Department of Justice announced in February 2005 that the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women would undertake to look at the recommendations from SAVI.
The 2004 reports from five Health Board Areas identify similar problems in their child protections services – lack of staff, lack of psychiatric services and lack of information on services.
The Mid-Western Health Board identifies inadequacies in their services as : “difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff in relation to Social Work… the non-availability of appropriate medical staff specializing in forensic examination of children where allegations of sexual abuse have been made… the need for designated assessment and treatment services for young people with psychiatric illness.”
The North-East Health Board said they also had problems filling posts in child care. They said “key inadequacies” were “the areas of treatment services for children who have been sexually abused.”
The Southern Health Board reported problems with psychological and psychiatric services for children: “the waiting list to provide assessments needed means that children and families have been left in situations of risk.”
Groups working the area believe that problems in child protection services stem from deficiencies with the implementation of Children's First – the national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children brought in in 2003.
The Children's Rights Alliance say that the guidelines have yet to be rolled out properly and some areas of the HSE are currently not operating under the guidelines. They recommend that the guidelines are out on a statutory basis to ensure they are complied with.
The only organisation in Ireland dedicated to supporting and helping those affected by child sexual abuse receives just €57,000 Government funding annually. The Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) organisation offers support, counseling, advice and a helpline to those affected by child sexual abuse. The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report, 2002, reported that one in five women experienced sexual abuse in childhood, and one in six men. Due to the lack of resources they can only open the CARI helpline Monday-Fridays 9.30-5.30.
As well as this the government's roll out of Garda vetting, which entails Garda clearance on all those working with children, is not complete. At the moment only new employees who work with children are being vetted. Existing teachers, health workers and those working with children have not been vetted by the Garda Siochana. Retrospective vetting – vetting of those already employed – will not even begin until 2008.