Garda helpline offers ‘trained listeners’ for sex abuse victims

Lots of offenders unpunished due to victims’ reluctance to go to police, says One in Four

Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual violence victims who contacted the One in Four organisation for help made a criminal complaint to the Garda but a new helpline service may increase the number, it said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual violence victims who contacted the One in Four organisation for help made a criminal complaint to the Garda but a new helpline service may increase the number, it said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual violence victims who contacted the One in Four organisation for help made a criminal complaint to the Garda but a new helpline service may increase the number, it said.

One in Four, which supports men and women who have experienced child sexual abuse, said the fact a report of a sexual crime could be made via the new Garda phone service to a “trained listener” and victims could meet investigating gardaí at a time of the victim’s choosing represented progress.

“Can you imagine having to walk into a Garda station; saying in a busy front office ‘I want to tell somebody about a sexual crime’?” said One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis.

“Can you imagine then having to go through the very detailed statement that would have to be made; that will still have to be made? That is a very difficult thing to do.

“Fewer than 10 per cent of One in Four clients make a complaint to the gardaí, even with all the support we can give them,” she said.

Impunity

“That means there are an awful lot of sex offenders walking around with impunity who can continue to abuse others.”

Her experience of those on sex offender treatment programmes showed that most sex offenders continued abusing until they were caught.

“I’m really hoping this is going to increase the number of people who do go and actually make a complaint to the gardaí and potentially prosecute the offender and potentially make other children safer,” she said.

The new Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line was launched by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on Thursday and will take calls relating to current and historical child sex abuse.

It was recommended by the Garda Inspectorate almost five years ago but Ms O’Sullivan said the infrastructure, including specially trained interviewers and investigators, needed to be put in place first.

Those who call the line – 1800 555222 – would reach staff working on the service on a 24-hour basis “seven days a week, 365 days a year”. The service is aimed at creating a compassionate reporting environment and so victims would not need to contact Garda stations.

Complaints of sexual abuse, by victims or third parties, would be taken in a sensitive manner and sent to other gardaí for investigation in the relevant region of the State.Reports that required a 999 response would be treated as such.