THE CARI FOUNDATION, a counselling and therapy service for children affected by sexual abuse, has welcomed a 16-month sentence handed down to a mother for sexually assaulting and exploiting her four-year-old daughter.
Mary Flaherty, chief executive of the organisation, said the custodial sentence highlights that vulnerable children are often not safe in their own homes.
At Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, the 28-year-old mother pleaded guilty to offences which happened in March 2010. She was sentenced to three years but will be jailed for 16 months as the remainder was suspended. The details of the case came to light after a member of the public found a discarded mobile phone and reported its contents, including a video of the young girl with her father who was semi-naked.
“The kind of things that children experience in the family home are as disturbing and harrowing as this,” Flaherty told Morning Ireland. “I think that is why we have drawn attention to this case.”
A lot of people think, perhaps, that the problem has gone away with the closure of institutions…but, in the work we do in CARI, therapy for children affected by sexual abuse, over 60 to 70 per cent are abused by close family members.
She also noted that the incidence of women being involved in abuse cases is about 7 per cent internationally but the foundation believes that this figure is “seriously under-reported”.
According to recent figures from the HSE, the incidence of abuse reports are increasing dramatically and Flaherty hopes that yesterday’s custodial sentence will act “as some form of deterrent”. Although, she remains worried that many similar incidents go unreported
She added that children need to be protected from the ever-increasing sexualised and even pornographic society. “The sentence draws attention to this. We were concerned that it mightn’t be taken so seriously.”
“That is the most we can hope from this,” she continued. “There will always be the kind of person who will take advantage of a vulnerable child but hopefully this is a deterrent.”
Speaking after Judge Martin Nolan made his ruling, Dr Niall Muldoon from CARI said the fact that a mother could be involved in sexual abuse has been ignored for too long.
The family home has always been the greatest place of danger for children and now the added risks of fragmented families and new media in an increasingly sexualised society compound that for vulnerable children, according to Muldoon.
The Irish Times reports that the court heard the woman – who had a serious drink problem – is a low risk for committing sexual offences in the future. She has completed an alcoholic recovery programme, not drank in over 16 months and has lost custody of her daughter.
The judge also believed that she was remorseful for her actions after hearing from Gardaí that she was visibly sickened by the footage when she was shown it back later.