One In Four | 

Child abuse support service ‘inundated with calls’ from survivors in 2021

According to One In Four’s 2021 annual report, 673 men and women who had experienced sexual abuse in childhood were supported by the charity.

Maeve Lewis of One In Four

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

An Irish charity has been “inundated with calls” from survivors of childhood sexual abuse in recent weeks, according to its annual report.

One In Four said that fresh revelations about sexual abuse in private schools have acted as a reminder about the endemic of child abuse in Irish society.

The charity has received nonstop calls from men who experienced this trauma, many of whom were disclosing their abuse for the first time.

According to One In Four’s 2021 annual report, 673 men and women who had experienced sexual abuse in childhood were supported by the charity, along with 65 men who had caused sexual harm to children.

Last year, it delivered 2,398 individual and group psychotherapy sessions to 125 clients and met 56 people for a first assessment meeting.

43pc of clients suffered abuse within their own family and 37pc were men.

Demand for One In Four’s services was so high in 2021 that it was forced to close its psychotherapy waiting list for four months as the waiting period had extended beyond a year.

With support from Tusla, it was able to create the new position of a waiting list case manager, who provided support and crisis counselling to people on the list.

Meanwhile, the organisation’s advocacy case managers supported 492 survivors as they engaged with the criminal and civil justice systems and child protection services. It also accompanied 53 clients through criminal trials.

65 men who had caused sexual harm to children attended One In Four’s prevention programme, a core project designed to keep children safe.

Almost 50pc of its prevention clients had committed an online offence while it also saw an increase in younger offenders, with 7pc aged between 18 – 25.

Speaking at the launch of One In Four’s 2021 Annual Report, CEO Maeve Lewis explained that there are a number of factors that prevent both children and adults from disclosing experiences of child sexual abuse.

“Many believe they are the only person to whom this has ever happened and are paralysed by a sense of personal shame,” she said.

“Others fear they will be disbelieved. Many are worried, often with good reason, that they will be ostracised by their families.

“When there is a major scandal and some survivors speak publicly then others are encouraged to come forward”.

Ms Lewis said that criminal trials continue to be a source of “great distress” for survivors despite a trauma-informed approach, with many describing these experiences as “re-traumatising, humiliating, and de-humanising".

“In cases of historic sexual abuse where there is no forensic evidence, it is essentially the credibility of the survivors’ testimony that is at issue.

“This means the survivor may feel personally assailed as their life choices, often a result of the impact of sexual abuse, are used to undermine their evidence.”

Despite the progress made over the past two decades, one in four children still suffer sexual harm in Ireland, according to Ms Lewis.

She added that she hopes the latest report can act as an “opportunity to drive systemic change” and help survivors of this trauma.

“We believe that these latest shocking disclosures must become an opportunity to drive systemic change and to tackle the root causes of why sexual abuse is so pervasive.

“We also hope that this may be a defining moment in creating timely, accessible expert services to heal the pain, suffering and damage that has been caused.”

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