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Increase in child abuse report to Women’s Aid

Author: Admin
Date: 13th June 2012

There were 25pc more reports of child abuse in 2011 and more than 13,000 calls were made to the Women’s Aid helpline, figures revealed today show.

Women's Aid said that more than 2,000 women who called their domestic violence helpline said their children had also suffered at the hands of a perpetrator, and another 3,000 youngsters saw their mothers threatened, beaten and raped.

Other figures released yesterday by the HSE showed that there were 12,825 reports of concern about the abuse of children in 2010.

However, the HSE report showed that only 1,556 cases of abuse were confirmed in that year.

In similar vein, more than 11,000 calls reporting 13,000 incidents were made to Women’s Aid last year - with 44pc disclosing children were also directly abused or present.

"Women have told us that their children were being hit, smacked, constantly shouted at, and in some cases, sexually abused," said Women's Aid director, Margaret Martin.

She said: "Many children will witness their mother being shouted at, threatened, physically assaulted and at times will see their mother being raped.

"Where they do not directly see the abuse occurring they may overhear abusive incidents, or will see the aftermath of it such as bruises, broken bones, damaged furniture and belongings."

Ms Martin said thousands of women across Ireland are living in a constant state of fear that the next attack will result in serious injury or death.

"In 2011, women disclosed that they were punched, slapped, kicked, held down and strangled and beaten with household items," she said.

"Women told us that they were constantly belittled, criticised, blamed and stalked and harassed via technology both during the relationship and after leaving.

"Women reported that they had been raped, sexually assaulted and given no option but to comply with their abuser's sexual demands."

The HSE figures showed that the confirmed cases of abuse, which related to 2010, were lower than in 2009, when there were 1,948 cases confirmed from 12,013.

The HSE report said that the problems of neglect of children by parents were much bigger than the issue of sexual abuse.

“The figures on sexual abuse are probably much smaller than public perception would have anticipated, illustrating this is comparatively not as substantial an issue as it is sometimes portrayed,” the report said.

Meanwhile, some children's advocates have called for an exception to be made to the Government's Children First legislation, which will make the non-reporting of knowledge of child abuse a criminal offence.

Children's law expert Geoffrey Shannon said the proposed legislation might stop underage teenagers who have had sex from seeking medical advice or treatment

Mr Shannon, a Government special rapporteur on child protection, said that because the proposal would require health professionals to report any instance of underage sexual intercourse to the authorities, teenagers might be dettered.

Mr Shannon appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children last Thursday as part of a series of committee meetings to discuss the draft heads of Children First Bill 2012.

Senator Jillian van Turnout, formerly head of the Children's Rights Alliance, has tabled an amendment to the Bill which would mean that “consensual, nonexploitative sexual activity where there is an age difference of not greater than two years between the parties” would constitute a “reasonable excuse” for not reporting such activity to the authorities.

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