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CARI Welcome the Re-Launch of Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse

May 2009

Re: the launch of report of commission of enquiry into child abuse as this report into horrendous historical abuse finally sees the light of day, CARI reminds the public that sexual abuse is still a clear and current danger and the publication should unite all in ensuring that we do better for this generation of children.

While welcoming the final report from the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse after such an inordinate length of time CARI’s National Clinical Director, Dr. Niall Muldoon supports the point already made by the Commission Chairman, Judge Ryan. Dr Muldoon stated that “it is essential that the publication of this report should unite all in ensuring that we do better for the current generation of children”. CARI is concerned that such a highly publicized report (allied to the upcoming Dublin Diocesan report) may lead the public into a false sense of security that such abuses are a thing of the past or that children cannot be experiencing such horrific treatment in the present.As the biggest voluntary provider of specialized therapy and support to children who are TODAYS VICTIMS of sexual abuse we want to make it very clear that this issue has not gone away and there is no sign of this terrible crime ceasing to exist. With tragic irony it is a fact that children who are being abused in Ireland today have fewer and less appropriate services available to them than the adult survivors of abuse. A working group set up after the Ferns enquiry is finalizing proposals for a service for children. It is vital that the Government and the HSE learn the lessons of the past and start providing appropriate, fully resourced and integrated services for those children who are currently suffering or are at risk of suffering abuse, not just sexual but physical, emotional and neglect.

The current figures available show that each year over 3,000 reports of possible neglect and abuse are made to the HSE every year with approximately 1000 of those relating to sexual abuse. The proliferation of reports into tragic cases going back to the early 1990s does not seem to have moved our child protection system much further forward. We have had the Children’s First Guidelines since 1999 but we have never had a strong, independent audit of how these are implemented to ensure they are as effective as they should be. CARI and other children’s charities take the view that these guidelines should be placed on a statutory basis for maximum effect.

The situation for children who disclose abuse remains harrowing. In many cases they are not believed and in some cases are returned on foot of court orders to the same situations in which they have disclosed abuse. CARI is aware of mothers currently at risk of being sent to jail for refusing to return their children to access situations where the child has told them of being abused. Without the protection of separate constitutional rights, which are still awaited/long overdue, their word carries little weight when set against the denials of an adult in our adversarial legal system and a child protection  system that operates in that shadow. The publication of this report should unite all in ensuring that we do better for this generation of children.

We need
1. An immediate constitutional referendum to enshrine the rights of the child as distinct from those of the child as a part of the family
2. The immediate establishment of easily accessible, specialized therapy and support services for children and their families in all HSE areas, in line with that available for adults.
3. The Children First Guidelines should be placed on a statutory basis

Founded in 1989, CARI is Ireland’s leading voluntary provider of therapy to children who have experienced sexual abuse.

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