One in Four appeals for funding
Support group today One in Four called for the services and funding needed to provide treatment at every stage in the cycle of sexual abuse, including therapy for offenders.
Currently, one in four people in Ireland have suffered from sexual violence, although fewer than 5 per cent of sex offenders are ever convicted.
“I think we have to remember the people whose lives lie behind those statistics,” said executive director Maeve Lewis at the launch of the group's annual report today.
“From our clients, we’ve learned many things over the years. We’ve learned, by working with adults who were sexually abused in childhood, the terrible suffering that is caused and that endures right through a person’s life. We also have learned about the absolute need for good professional support if people are to recover.”
Last year, the organisation provided counselling and advocacy to 933 people and 39 families, despite a cut in funding of over 20 per cent since 2008. It is funded by the HSE, the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime and the Family Support Agency. It also receives donations from the public.
Although abuse within the Catholic Church has been highlighted over recent years and makes up a significant portion of those seeking helping at One in Four, the majority of clients have been abused by members of their own family and community.
In the hope of providing prevention as well as treatment, the organisation also provides services to sex offenders as well as to their wives and partners through the Phoenix Programme. Ms Lewis said that rather than rallying around the victim as expected, families will often split their support between the abused and the abuser.
“A lot of very challenging work has to be done to get the person to consider the very distorted thinking that they have developed,” she said, after referring to an instance when a woman claimed her 11-year-old niece had seduced her husband. “Very often the spouses and partners will have been groomed by the offender as well.”
Although Ms Lewis said it is too soon to tell the success of the programme, 90 per cent of the men who start the course complete it. It incorporates 334 hours of treatment from assessment to support and costs participants €5,500. While some funding through the HSE can be available, One in Four considers the financial burden as a part of the process of taking responsibility.
“One in Four has never been silent or shied away from doing what is right,” said Senator Jillian van Turnhout. “Today they’re calling for a treatment programme for those who sexually harm children, and support for their families. This is crucial if the cycle of abuse is to be broken.”
Ms van Turnhout also spoke about the importance of the Referendum for Children’s Rights on November 10th in preventing abuse and protecting Ireland’s children.