By Catherine Murray
The purpose of this article is to share with you some of the new and varied ways in which we as a nation have begun to respond to the problems created by child sexual abuse. The subject began to receive attention in the 1980s with the setting up of such services as Childline, The Rape Crisis Centres and the Sexual Assault Unit at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. In 1986/7, a Department of Health Working Party laid down some guidelines on child abuse and child sexual abuse.
The past two years have seen the inception of noteworthy developments in the field of child sexual abuse work and, although there is much room for improvement, further development and extension of service, at least we have begun. We have begun to support one another, advocate service provision, provide treatment and take steps in the field of prevention, provide training and to make much-needed changes to our legislation. I feel very heartened by the many and various initiatives e numerated below. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you are aware of other initiatives in the field, please write and let us know.
1. The Support Network for Professionals in Child Abuse (SNPCA)
This network was established in November 1991 to provide support for people working in a professional capacity in the area of child abuse and neglect. Its stated objectives are:
a. to share information relating to services, standards and practice;
b. to organize training and seminars at national and regional level;
c. to identify service needs and advocate service provision;
d. to establish international links for educational and research purposes. They publish a quarterly newsletter. Further information can be had from Colman Duggan, St Louise’s Unit, Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin D 12.
2. Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI)
This is a voluntary organization that provides much needed support and therapy for sexually abused children and non-abusing members of their families. Their aim is to open CARI houses all over Ireland and they opened their first in Dublin in April of this year. The second is due to open in Limerick within the next six months. CARI offers a multi-disciplinary approach with individual counselling, drama, music and play therapy, and provides support on a daily basis after school, at weekends and holidays, depending on the age and need of the child. For further information, referrals networking and fundraising, contact Dublin 308529 and Limerick (061) 55004.
3. Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP)
This was set up in 1988. It is a programme for schools which has been thoroughly researched over the school year 1991/2. It has been implemented in the Eastern Health Board region last year and the Department of Health supports the extension of this programme on a national basis. Teacher training in the use of the programme is taking place in each of the Health Board regions, so the programme should be available in all schools within this school year.
4. Rape Crisis Centres
These have added two new centres in the past year, one at Tralee and one in Kilkenny. The Tralee Centre has acquired premises and their volunteer counsellors are being trained in the Limerick Rape Crisis Centre. They hope to offer a service in 1993. Kilkenny volunteers are being trained by the Clonmel Rape Crisis Centre which is providing one day per week in Kilkenny until the Kilkenny volunteers are trained and able to undertake this themselves.
5. “Working with the Aftermath of Child Sexual Abuse”
This professional skills training course is being offered at Newtown House Centre in Doneraile, Co. Cork. The six-day residential course is aimed at professionals working in the field of child abuse and attracts participants from all over Ireland.
6. Advanced Diploma in Child Protection and Welfare
This is being offered by the Department of Social Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. It is a multi-disciplinary course with a national intake, supported by the Department of Health and all the regional Health Boards.
7. Safe Harbours Programme
This programme offers intensive residential workshops for adult survivors of abuse. There are separate workshops for men and for women, and these workshops have a follow-up programme. Further details can be had from Turning Point on Dublin 280 0626.
8. Groups for Young Abusers
The Centre in Fr Matthew Street, Cork, offers group treatment for young abusers. It is hoped that early intervention in the abuse cycle will make an impact in preventing further abuse in the future.
9. Child Care Act 1991; Criminal Evidence Act 1992
On the legal front, the Child Care Act 1991 brings with it a commitment from government for extra resources phased over a seven-year period. New posts will be created for social workers, psychologists and other professional staff. The Criminal Evidence Act 1992 will allow children to give evidence by video link, thus reducing the trauma of prosecution upon the child.
The initiatives that I have enumerated above are all very welcome and will undoubtedly lead to change in the long term. However, there are still huge gaps in provision, particularly in working with abusers. I hope that we can maintain the momentum of progress made. We can then, hopefully, one day look forward to a time when all people damaged by abuse are given the resources needed to heal themselves, breaking the cycle of abuse.
Catherine Murray is a director of Newtown House, Doneraile, Co. Cork.