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Children's Minister: 'Child abuse has not gone away...it doesn't go away'

A shocking statistic from yesterday’s report from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland showed a significant percentage of abusers were, themselves, children.

(YouTube: SineadOCarrollTJ)

MINISTER FRANCES FITZGERALD has told workers in the Rape Crisis Network Ireland that Ireland will not be able to reform its services immediately but warned that child abuse is not just a dark chapter in the nation’s history.

“We are not going to change things overnight,” she said on the publication of the RCNI’s report Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence: Towards a National Response. “This is current.”

At the launch of the collaborative effort of 17 crisis centres, the Minister was urged to maintain funding to allow the data collection about sex abuse and rape in Ireland that informed the research to continue indefinitely.

RCNI’s Elaine Mears said learning was the only way to respond to sexual violence and that it was excellent value for money.

Mary Flaherty of CARI (Children at Risk Ireland) said the collaborative approach to data allows the NGO sector identify and fill gaps in the State’s services.

As an example of how data can be useful if it is blessed with longevity, Fiona Neary of the RCNI, said parenting courses were established in Mayo as an intervention when it was confirmed that abuse patterns were forming in families.

“High quality data can drive improvements and advise on public policy,” she added through visible dismay that there was no funding commitment beyond 2013.

Although the Minister did not give that commitment, she said, “We must seek to prevent, to protect and to act when neither protection nor prevention works. We must refine and specialise so that abused children get the response they actually need.

“We have come out of a century-long dark place, when it comes to child sexual abuse. So much attention has rightly been given to the past atrocities against Ireland’s children that there’s a danger of us drawing a line in the sand where no line should be drawn.

“That we have at least addressed past horrors should not distract from the reality that the present carries its own horrors for our children. The present brings suffering, and fear and confusion to sexually abused children. It is, sadly, not just an historic issue.”

She noted that the events in Athlone recently “stopped us all in our tracks”. However, she also pointed to a marked difference in the reaction of the authorities to the allegations.

“Just think for a minute about the reaction to the investigating Gardai of the families of the two young girls who were so grievously assaulted in Athlone. The families could not have given more praise to those Garda officers. That’s a world away from the mistrust of just a few years ago.”

The report found that age and gender impact significantly on the likely duration and severity of abuse, as well as the perpetrator and location.

The RCNI says such details allow it to better understand the different phases of vulnerability to shape an effective Child Protection response.

Related: Four new HSE coordinators to deal with potential abuse cases

More: Under-13s most vulnerable to sex assault by male family member

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