Charity gives treatment to dozens of sex abusers who assaulted own families
A LEADING charity treated almost 30 sex offenders who carried out attacks on children in their own families last year, according to new figures.
One in Four, which supports victims of sexual violence, said its programme for offenders is as essential as helping survivors.
The organisation worked with more than 900 survivors of abuse in 2011, including 20 whose cases were dealt with in the criminal court - a process described as humiliating, abusive and traumatic.
Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, said treatment for sex offenders is at the core of child protection.
"Providing treatment for those who sexually harm children and supporting their families is essential if the cycle of abuse is to be broken," she said.
"While good programmes are available in prison, fewer than 5pc of sex offenders will ever be convicted of their crimes.
"There is a huge need for treatment in the community."
Research shows effective treatment programmes reduce the risk of reoffending, yet most sex offenders in Ireland do not have access to treatment and will continue to abuse throughout their lives until they are caught.
In 2011, One in Four provided treatment to 28 sex offenders.
"Most of the men had abused children in their own families," Ms Lewis continued.
"We also worked with 16 wives or partners of the men in treatment, helping them to understand how the sexual abuse had happened in their homes and how they could ensure that other children in their families were safe.
"This programme should be available in every county in Ireland."
Some 933 people and 39 families were supported through the charity's counselling and advocacy programmes in 2011.
While many had been sexually abused within the Catholic Church setting - 21pc of counselling clients and 45pc of advocacy clients - the majority had been harmed in their own families and communities.
Ms Lewis said every client had been the victim of a terrible sexual crime that continued to haunt their lives many years after the event.
"Sadly, the criminal justice systems continue to fail them," she said.
"In the tiny minority of cases that make it to a criminal trial - 20 One in Four clients in 2011 - victims consistently describe the process as humiliating, abusive and traumatic.
"One in four Irish people experience sexual violence.
"It is simply not acceptable that so many of them are denied a legal remedy simply because an archaic criminal justice system cannot address the complexities of sexual crime."
The organisation, which is backing the forthcoming referendum on children's rights, urged anyone appalled by the succession of harrowing reports on clerical abuse and failures to protect children in their home to vote yes.
"The publication of a series of reports over the past decade has revealed our true attitudes to childhood in Ireland and we have been shamed before the whole world," Ms Lewis added.
"The people who come to One in Four for help tell us of the real lives that lie behind those reports.
"Many of them know that if only adults had acted, then the years of suffering they have endured need never have happened."