Pandemic left abuse survivors with ‘too much time’ to think about past - One in Four

Agency supported 172 clients through online sessions as lockdowns disrupted in-person services

One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis said the agency’s clients were ‘devastated’ to see their  court dates cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Alan Betson

One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis said the agency’s clients were ‘devastated’ to see their court dates cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

One in Four, the agency which assists people who experienced childhood sexual abuse, supported 172 clients last year through individual and group online psychotherapy sessions.

The agency undertook 74 assessment meetings with people, of whom 30 per cent had attempted suicide, according to its annual report. It said that 51 per cent of its clients were abused by people in their own families.

One in Fourt said its advocacy team supported 432 survivors last year “mainly by engaging with gardaí and the criminal justice system and support with Tusla child protection notifications”.

Maeve Lewis, One in Four’s chief executive, said “our clients were devastated when their court dates were cancelled due to the closure of the courts” because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said many of them “do not have a new court date until 2022, putting their lives on hold”.

“Even in 2021 as the courts reopened, many people experienced further delays as cases were backed up. This is just not acceptable,” she said.

The agency described last year as “incredibly challenging” given it had to close its offices. It said staff wondered what would happen to their vulnerable clients and feared that “sex offenders attending our prevention programme would relapse”.

Trusting relationships

Ms Lewis explained that One in Four was able to move all of its services online overnight but worried “that the trusting relationships that are at the core of good psychotherapy could not be replicated online.

“A survey of clients at the end of 2020 told us that online therapy was a lifeline and even a life saver but the majority missed the more in-depth work of face to face therapy,” she said, adding that lockdowns had “a devastating impact on survivors of child sexual abuse”.

“People had too much time to think about the past,” she said, which meant that “by December we had 98 people on the waiting list for psychotherapy with waiting times of up to 18 months.

“We are incredibly concerned for the safety of these people before we ever meet them.”

One in Four said it dealt with 53 sex offenders last year in individual and group settings. Some were “online offenders” who viewed child abuse material on the internet, it said.

“Transitioning to an online service for this group required careful consideration as we were concerned about a potential increase in risk. We were reassured, however, by the depth and quality of work that was possible.”