Justice system ‘a source of trauma’ in sex crime cases

One in Four says it is unacceptable that many victims lack legal remedies

Maeve Lewis: “It is not acceptable in a democracy that so many victims of serious sexual crime . . .  are so terrified of the criminal trial system that they choose not to make a complaint in the first place.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Maeve Lewis: “It is not acceptable in a democracy that so many victims of serious sexual crime . . . are so terrified of the criminal trial system that they choose not to make a complaint in the first place.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 


It is not acceptable in a democracy that so many victims of serious sexual crime do not have access to a legal remedy or are so terrified of the criminal trial system that they chose not to make a complaint in the first place, the executive director of One in Four has said.

Maeve Lewis of the support organisation for victims of child sexual abuse was speaking ahead of today’s publication of the organisation’s 10th annual report.

She praised the record of the group, which had “helped thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse to transform their lives”.

But she added: “The criminal justice system continues to be a source of trauma and distress to our clients.”

“While accused persons must have the right to a fair trial, it is not acceptable in a democracy that so many victims of serious sexual crime do not have access to a legal remedy or are so terrified of the criminal trial system that they choose not to make a complaint in the first place.”


‘Significant achievements’
Looking over the organisation’s first decade, Ms Lewis said One in Four could point with pride to a list of significant achievements.

The groups had “created a unique model of intervention working with survivors, their families and sex offenders” and had delivered 51,267 hours of counselling to adult survivors, she said.

The group had also guided more than 4,500 survivors through the criminal, civil and child protection systems, provided treatment to 101 sex offenders and supported 63 families affected by sexual violence.

Ms Lewis said One in Four had also helped establish statutory inquiries into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and was a force behind the introduction of an innovative restorative justice programme.


Cultural shift
All such achievements had led to a rise in public awareness and a cultural shift whereby survivors were no longer ashamed to recount their experiences, she said.

“Many challenges remain, as the events of this week show,” she said

“At One in Four we notify all allegations of child sexual abuse to the HSE child protection services but many of these notifications are never investigated. Just because the sexual abuse happened in the past does not mean that the sex offender is no longer active and dangerous.”

She added: “We cannot be complacent . . . However, One in Four is delighted with our achievements to date and look forward with confidence to the challenges of the next decade.”