AN 11-year-old girl, raped at knife-point by a male neighbour, has described her treatment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as "a living nightmare".
The girl, who is now 17, said she can never forgive the HSE for how it failed to provide the support she needed after her mother sought help for the horrific abuse.
A damning investigation by Ombudsman Emily Logan found she was further traumatised by the potential "negligence" of the health service.
It revealed she had to wait two months for a medical examination because the HSE could not find an experienced female doctor. It also failed to provide her with therapy and counselling to deal with the trauma.
Speaking to the Irish Independent in the wake of the report, the girl said: "The way we were treated was almost as bad as the abuse. You are left feeling that you cannot trust anyone.
"These people are supposed to be there to help. They certainly didn't help us. I was left feeling that no one believed me.
"It was almost as if the problems were somehow our fault. Not being believed was the worst of all. It is almost worse than the abuse itself."
The girl's mother said: "It has been a seven-year nightmare for us. No one should have to endure the pain and suffering we went through.
"My daughter now believes she was as damaged by the state agencies as she was by her abuser. The sad thing is that nothing has changed.
"We are still being told to go private in terms of the counselling and support services that my daughter needs. It has been a total disaster."
The family has since been forced to quit their home to get away from the man involved.
Her mother is also highly critical over how her daughter's complaints have been handled by gardai. The DPP decided not prosecute in 2010.
She has now learned through the Garda Ombudsman that a second garda file, relating to disclosures of abuse in 2011, has gone to the DPP.
"It is astonishing that the file was submitted in 2013 for incidents that happened years ago. I have heard absolutely nothing from the gardai."
The young girl first disclosed the alleged abuse between December 2006 and July 2007 when she claimed she had been the victim of multiple violent rapes by a man, and death threats and assaults with a knife.
Her mother went to the gardai and the HSE in order to protect her daughter and secure therapy.
But the ordeal for the girl, who threatened suicide, then worsened.
The Ombudsman found that the HSE staff had allowed problems with the girl's mother – whom they labelled "difficult and challenging" – to compromise the child's welfare.
The investigation also found that:
* It took two months for the HSE to arrange a medical examination of the child. This was needed to determine if the girl needed treatment and also to provide evidence for a criminal prosecution.
The girl had insisted that she wanted to be examined by a female doctor and the HSE had trouble finding one who was suitable. This was compounded by "administrative inefficiency".
* The girl did not receive a therapeutic assessment, which would help determine the effects of alleged abuse and her counselling needs.
She insisted that her mother be with her at the initial interview but this was refused by HSE staff.
The failure to carry out an assessment meant that she was not eligible for therapy, and her mother had to pay for this privately.
* A social worker was not allocated by the HSE to help the girl because she was not at "ongoing risk".
* It took several months before HSE staff visited the child in her house.
The girl's mother eventually went to the Ombudsman in 2009 but the youngster was not ready at that point to take part in the investigation.
Ms Logan concluded that HSE actions adversely affected the child, and that the failure to get around the obstacles to providing her with an initial assessment "was or may have been the result of negligence".
It should have been possible to arrange the assessment in some way, such as having a glass screen with her mother nearby, which would not compromise the integrity of the interview, she said.
Ms Logan made a series of recommendations.
She will go back to check on progress at the end of the year.
"The period following a disclosure of alleged sexual abuse by a child is very traumatic for both a child and his or her family," she said.
"It is imperative that HSE staff communicate clearly and in a compassionate way with parents at this extremely stressful time.
"The HSE (in the coming months the Child and Family Agency) is the agency with statutory responsibility for child protection.
"The new agency must ensure its staff are trained and supported to adequately respond to families following disclosures of alleged abuse," she added.
The HSE said that it had accepted and was currently implementing the recommendations.
It said that, since 2006, the provision of services and national practices in relation to child sexual abuse had evolved and improved significantly.
These improvements include the assignment of additional social workers and dedicated sexual assault treatment units, which are now available on a 24-hour basis with access to female consultants.
The HSE worked in partnership under agreed protocols with the gardai to ensure that allegations of child abuse were investigated in accordance with statute, she added.
Ralph Riegel and Eilish O'Regan