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Mother of sex abuse victim: 'There was no one to help us'

Jennifer’s* son had to wait nine months after reporting his abuse before a HSE therapist was assigned.

Image: Mother and child image via Shutterstock

THE MOTHER OF a child who was sexually abused has spoken out against the government after waiting nine months for a therapist to be assigned to her son.

Jennifer’s* son was abused over a number of years and last summer, at the age of 16, he told her about it for the first time.

“It was the longest night of my life,” she told TheJournal.ie. “We went to the police and over the course of eight hours they took his statement. That was the first time I had heard every single detail.”

Jennifer said she had expected a counseller to be on hand to speak with her son while he was going through the process of reporting his abuse but she was told that there were no services available to him because of his age.

“I was very naive, I thought there would be someone and we were told that there would have been if he was under 16, but there was no one to help us – it was just him and me,” she said.

We were told that he’d have to go on a waiting list to be assessed and because he went to the police, the HSE was our only option – no other place will touch you once you’ve reported it to the gardaí. It’s isolating enough without all of that. You’re already feeling guilty because you feel like you haven’t protected your child and the isolation is so phenomenal because people don’t know what to say, so you can’t even really discuss it with your friends.

‘He feels like no one cares’

Jennifer said that her son felt “absolute frustration trying to cope with his anger” over the nine months he waited to see a professional therapist to help him through his trauma.

“He feels like no one cares, he wasn’t 16 when this started and he’s still a human being who has had this happen to him – just because the number crunchers say that he’s not included in that catagory, he’s left without,” she said. “What am I supposed to say to my son, that he should have reported it before his 16th birthday, after he had the courage to come out and tell me about it?”.

“When your child is in dire need, you’ll do anything you can for them and I sat up all that night on Google, the longest night of my life, searching for places to help us,” she said. “I’ve sent numerous emails to Minister Frances Fitzgerald and her people wrote back referring me to CARI who I had already told them I contacted and couldn’t help me – they obviously weren’t listening to me and eventually I gave up”.

Last week TheJournal.ie spoke to the CARI Foundation which has had its funding cut over the last number of years, resulting in the closure of its centre in Cork and a reduction in remaining services. CEO Mary Flaherty said the lack of counselling facilities for child sex abuse victims was an “inexplicable scandal” as the HSE receives an average of 2,500 reports of abuse each year.

Flaherty also said that sexual abuse is not considered a mental health issue which further restricts a child’s access to HSE therapists.

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‘Standing in a shopping centre with tears streaming down my face’

“I feel so isolated, you sit back and hold in your temper and all you want to do is lash out at everyone,” Jennifer said.

“One day I realised I was just standing in the middle of a shopping centre with tears streaming down my face and you feel like a mad woman. I don’t know how to help him with the flashbacks, I just don’t know how to help him. When this happens you just feel like you’re letting your child down again and again and again.”

Jennifer’s son has now been assigned a therapist which she said is a “huge relief”.

I wouldn’t knock the work they do because I know they’re working in difficult situations but I just wish it could have been sooner. That’s nine months and if you look at the suicides for young people it’s hardly surprising because there’s nowhere for them to go. It wouldn’t encourage people to come forward because when a child is brave enough to do that they’re turned away – it’s horrific.

Jennifer said she hopes to be able to campaign further down the line to draw attention to the lack of support for today’s child sex abuse victims and their families.

*Some names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.

Read: HSE failing today’s child sex abuse victims with lack of counselling services>

Read: Child protection reviews reveal 378 abuse allegations about 146 individuals>

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