Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press release 24th October 2019 RCNI welcomes the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality report on the Reform of the Family Law System

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press release 24th October 2019 RCNI welcomes the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality report on the Reform of the Family Law System

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release 17th April 2019 RCNI welcome the new transformative categories in the CSO’s Garda Crime Statistics

Today’s Sexual Violence Garda Crime Statistics release from the Central Statistics Office are a significant improvement on previous releases and tells us so much more than previously.

These statistics give us a breakdown of victims by gender, age and time between sexual violence incidents and reporting.

For the first time we can see how sexual violence impacts in very gendered ways in our official crime statistics. This is a very significant step forward.

· Women accounted for 82% of all victims of reported sexual offences.

Recent incidents (within last year):

· 63% of all reports were reporting recent incidents in the past year.

· Women accounted for 89% of all victims of recent incidents.

· 58% of recent incidents for males related to child sexual violence.

Historic incidents (more than 1 year ago)

· A quarter of sexual offences reports date back from over 10 years ago.

· For historic incidents 83% related to offences against children (Under 18).

· Men were the victims in 31% of historic cases.

Clíona Saidléar, RCNI executive Director said, ‘RCNI strongly welcome that the official crime statistics for the first time lets us talk about gender in sexual violence victimisation. As sexual violence is highly gendered, with women and children being the majority of the victims and males accounting for the majority of perpetrators, it is vital we understand this if we are to work on successfully preventing sexual violence.

‘We can also now for the first time distinguish the current crimes from the crimes committed in the past and the length of the interval between the crime occurring and it being reported. This is vital, as sexual violence is different to most crimes in how and when people come forward and report. A quarter of sexual violence crime reported last year dates back to incidents more than 10 years ago, in contrast, for assaults and related offences, less than 1% relate to incidents more than a year old.

‘It is less than a year ago that RCNI and One in Four recommended these changes to the statistics and we are delighted that they have been made available this quickly. RCNI very much welcome the professional and thorough standard the CSO is bringing to the crime statistics and the work of An Garda Síochána to improve their data gathering dramatically.

‘These progressive commitments to data, evidence and transparency is a key indication that the government is moving to follow up its expressions of sympathy and outrage with a clear demonstration of their serious intent to address this deep rooted issue in a concerted and sustained manner.’

‘RCNI look forward to further developments in this vital area of making the facts about sexual violence visible.’

Notes

· Link to CSO crime stats release https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-rcv/recordedcrimevictims2018/

RCNI warn Oireachtas Committee that child abuse in the family remains hidden in our child protection and legal systems

Dr Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘RCNI today are calling for a commitment to a fit for purpose system to deal with child sexual violence in family law matters. A specialist court is needed to ensure the best child protection response.

‘For many child victims the family is not a safe place, it is the location of the harm. Because the criminal justice system largely fails these children, with between a 90% – 96% failure rate, the protection of these children often becomes the subject of the family law courts, both publicly and privately. Protecting children in these circumstances requires specialisation.

‘Today we are particularly drawing attention to familial sexual violence and incest. Our RCNI Rape Crisis data showed that in 62% of child sexual violence against children under 13, it was a family member who committed the crime. Of the 11,600 cases of guardianship, custody and access going through our civil courts every year we can expect that a significant proportion to involve the rape and the sexual abuse of children by family members in the absence of a parallel criminal conviction. We urgently need Courts Services to make public how many of their cases involve child sexual violence as a matter of justice and public interest.

‘The fact is our family courts are currently handling criminal matters of the most sensitive child protection nature in unknown numbers, without criminal authority, without the appropriate tools and with insufficient specialisation.’

RCNI are calling for a special family court, with tailored authority, where all actors would have domestic and sexual violence specialisation. This matter should form a key part of Ireland’s long overdue first National Strategy on Child Sexual Violence.

ENDS

Notes:
• There are 3,000 referrals of child sexual violence to Tusla every year,
• only 2% of those cases gain a conviction.
• the false allegation rate is only between 2% and 8%.
Reports in the past 12 months detailing the failures in the current system:
• Garda Inspectorate Report Responding to Child Sexual Abuse a follow up review (Dec 2017) http://www.gsinsp.ie/en/GSINSP/Responding%20to%20Child%20Sexual%20Abuse%20-%20A%20follow%20up%20review%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf/Files/Responding%20to%20Child%20Sexual%20Abuse%20-%20A%20follow%20up%20review%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf
• Geoffrey Shannon, 11th Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection
https://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/child_welfare_protection/2018121811ReportSpecRappChildProtect.pdf
• Child Care Law Reporting Project Final Report CCLRP-Full-final-report_FINAL2 (1).pdf
• HIQA, Report of the investigation into the management of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults of concern by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) June 2018 https://www.hiqa.ie/sites/default/files/2018-06/HIQA-Investigation-Executive-Summary.pdf
Recommended data that could and should be made regularly public:
• How many cases in front of civil family law courts include allegations of child sexual violence and domestic violence, including coercive control?
• A set of data points around the communications and interactions between the criminal and civil authorities in regard to those cases,
• Data points tracking people’s engagement in the system so that the multiplicity and length of these cases can be better understood,
• Data tracking how many children are bound by (directly, through their guardians or both) ‘non-disclosure’ or ‘confidentiality’ clauses on direction of the civil courts with regards potential future disclosures of criminal matters of sexual violence?

Concern as Tusla in the dark on whether it has conducted any joint interviews with Guards on Child sexual Violence

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release
Embargoed midnight 26th November 2018
Concern as Tusla in the dark on whether it has conducted any joint interviews with Guards on Child sexual Violence
RCNI call on Minister Zappone for clarity following her latest response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Clare Daly to assure us that Tusla the Child and Family Agency is in fact engaged in specialist child interviewing where there are concerns regarding child sexual violence.
Asked if Tusla could say how many specialist joint Tusla an Garda Siochana interviews of child abuse allegations they took part in in 2018, the Minister conveyed the Child and Family Agency’s response that ‘they do not collect the information’.
We are concerned at this absence of knowledge Tusla would appear to have of its own practices.
What we know from an earlier Ministerial written answer to Deputy Daly on the 13th of November is that there were currently 12 specialist interviewers in Tusla and she anticipated 29 to be fully trained and available by January 2019. In addition, the Minister announced the piloting of specialist child centres in 2019 to deliver a multiagency specialist response to children where there are concerns of sexual violence. These developments are to be welcomed. 
In terms of the handling of referrals, the Minister stated, on the 11th of October that ‘once a report of child sexual abuse has been screened by a duty social worker, a strategy meeting is held to decide which service is most suitable for the child. One of the available options is a Joint Specialist Interview with Gardaí taking the lead role.’ The Minister further states that these interviews are ‘integral’.
We assume that the voice of the child will be central and critical in almost all child sexual violence cases. Joint Specialist interviews, in most cases, will be the most appropriate and effective way to hear the voice of the child.
Tusla received 770 Child sexual abuse allegations in the first quarter of 2018 alone, (we can assume approx. 3,000 referrals per annum) yet hold no information on how many of these cases were treated as child protection matters with joint specialist interviews subsequently conducted. We have to ask the Minister to reassure us that potentially at risk children in Ireland today are being heard by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
 
Notes
Reference numbers for Parliamentary Questions referred to
21st November 48562/18
13th November 46602/18
11th October 41672/18

‘ONE HOUSE’ CHILD-CENTRED SPECIALIST CHILD-ABUSE RESPONSE TO OPEN IN 2019

RCNI welcome the launch today by Dr Katherine Zappone TD, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in conjunction with the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan TD, of a pilot ‘One House’ centre for children who have been sexually abused.

RCNI commend the three Ministers for this initiative. The pilot, if successful, will address many of the current serious concerns we have for how the state is meeting the needs of children who experience sexual abuse.

RCNI Executive Director, Dr Clíona Saidléar said, ‘we can’t continue to fail children who experience child abuse, this pilot has the potential to deliver, for the first time dedicated wrap-around specialisation to this area of child protection. This is long overdue. We know from adult survivors of child sexual abuse that the process of reporting as children was often deeply traumatising, leaving them feeling disbelieved and isolated and with no follow up supports in place.

‘The standard aspired to, of joint interviewing and a co-ordinated approach between Tusla and the Gardaí to child abuse is, in many cases, simply not the reality faced by families engaging with the authorities to seek support and protection for their children. This pilot is a new approach based on well-established best international practice, which seeks to ensure the aspiration of a child-centred response where the child receives support not further trauma, becomes a reality.

In parallel with this initiative, RCNI support the Dept. of Justice and Equality’s work to develop the Bill to establish a Special Court to replace the poorly equipped Family Courts in this matter. We would also urge the Ministers to look at increased transparency and accountability at every stage of the process in the interest of the children, including the operation of the in camera rule.

RCNI press release – Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018

 
RCNI urges TDs to ensure survivors of rape are empowered in their decision making within the General Scheme of the Health (Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 debated at second stage in Dáil Éireann on Thursday October 4th
 
4th October 2018
 
RCNI call on legislators to ensure that the Health (Termination of Pregnancy) Bill is survivor-centred. The Bill should provide for the voice of the patient in abortion care and that requirements should not impede access to health care for survivors of rape.
 
A rape survivor’s perception of their own wellbeing must inform access. 
 
It is proposed that a termination of pregnancy may be carried out where two medical practitioners certify that there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant person (Section 10). The certifying medical practitioners are currently not required to consult with the pregnant person on their own perception of the risks of harm.
 
Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director said, “Many of those accessing abortion care under Section 10 will be survivors of rape and/or people living in coercive relationships. Any over-medicalisation of the decision-making process has the potential to restrict access and distances a survivor of rape further from control over their own body. We would urge legislators to ensure that the opinion of the pregnant person is included throughout this legislation.”
 
Further Section 13 provides for terminations where a medical practitioner certifies that the pregnancy concerned has not exceeded 12 weeks since the patient’s last menstrual period. Following this certification, a mandatory 3 day waiting period is required before an abortion can be accessed.
 
“We believe this is an unnecessary barrier to medical care which will prolong the harm and suffering of the survivor,” Dr. Saidléar said. “We must ensure the least traumatic and most empowered pathway to care and therefore urge the removal of unnecessary barriers and delays in accessing Section 13. Survivor-centred legislation will ensure the greatest possible recovery for those pregnant following rape who decide on a termination.”
 

HIQA Report reveals Tusla dysfunction in responding to reports of risks of sexual violence to children

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) welcoming the HIQA report on Tusla’s handling of retrospective reporting supported Minister Zappone’s plan for immediate structures to action the recommendations and calls for child-centred and survivor-centred action.

Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘what survivors of past sexual violence often want is to know that no child will be harmed by the person who committed these crimes against themselves. It is reassuring and empowering to know that there is an agency and a set of professionals who are ensuring that what you, the survivor, knows is making a difference. This child protection is the intention of retrospective reporting and as survivors have been telling us, HIQA now confirms, it is not consistency happening.

For those survivors who have given their story to Tusla, it is heart-breaking. The catastrophic lack of social workers in Tusla, the absence of specialisation for social workers in sexual violence and the poor fit between a social worker’s responsibility and the skills required to handle retrospective reporting all adds up to deliver failure to survivors of sexual violence and to children.

It is also clear that the legislative basis to support Tusla’s work in child protection under the Child Care Act is flawed. What is described in the HIQA report is as much an inevitable outcome of poor laws as it is of lack of resources and inappropriate practice. RCNI are calling on government:

  • to prioritise the reform of the Child Care Act 1991 which is currently under review,
  • to set up a multiagency guidance committee to develop shared practice guidance across relevant professionals and agencies such as exists for SATUs,
  • to redouble efforts to develop co-location of child protection responses and to examine the development of stand-alone retrospective reporting child protection co-location responses,
  • To require adequate sexual violence training for all general social workers and require specialisation for those working in this area,
  • To ensure appropriate oversight and clinical governance of any outsourcing of child protection assessments,
  • To examine the location of adult sexual violence responses within child protection services.

For information:
Clíona Saidléar
087 2196447

Video launch – Amal: a journey through conflict, rape and the 8th amendment

Today RCNI are releasing a video telling the story of Amal’s journey to the UK to access an abortion following gang rape. We are asking people to vote YES on Friday so that others will have a very different story than Amal’s.

Amal’s story:
Amal was an asylum seeker who arrived here fleeing her central African country where she had been repeatedly raped as she escaped conflict. Upon arriving here she found out she was pregnant. She was approximately 7-8 weeks along at that point. Amal was horrified and deeply traumatised by the fact of her pregnancy and asked for a termination.

Amal was under 18, a child, now living in direct provision with no independent means and so entirely dependent on the state. See also spoke little English.
Amal needed help with information and making arrangements. Amal needed formal papers to allow her to travel to leave Ireland, go to England and return. Amal had no money. Amal had arrived with some family but they too were asylum seekers without the means to assist her.

Those responsible for Amal and caring for her felt constrained by the 8th amendment in what they could do. By the time legal arguments were resolved and all professionals and statutory authorities had done what they could and needed to do to vindicate both her right to travel and what was very clearly her real emotional and psychological need to have an abortion, more than 14 weeks had passed. Amal endured, in great distress, throughout that period and now faced into a late term abortion.

The video is narrated by the Rape Crisis Support worker who accompanied Amal in her personal capacity, as no statutory professional felt they could do so under the 8th amendment.

Amal is now married and a mother, she has a vote and gave her permission for us to tell her story.

Dr Clíona Saidléar, RCNI executive director said, ‘RCNI are asking for you to vote yes so that when a rape victim finds out they are pregnant they can be supported here in Ireland. If we vote yes and the government brings in the promised 12 week legislation, tomorrow’s Amal will be under the care of a doctor who can inform, prescribe and supervise the abortion pill if that is what the survivor decides. There won’t be the inordinate delay, trauma and shame, necessitated by the 8th amendment, added on top of the trauma a rape victim is already suffering.

‘We need to support rape victims here, at home, under the care of their doctors, and supported by their loved ones. Please vote Yes on Friday.’
Note: Amal is not her real name, some details have been changed to maintain her confidentiality

https://vimeo.com/271093596

For information:
Clíona Saidléar – 087 2196447

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release
21 May 2018

RCNI call for clarity on child sexual violence issues

RCNI are concerned at the series of issues in child protection coming to light as matters relating to Scouting Ireland and child protection investigations are being uncovered and understood.

From the report in the Irish Times on the 24th of April 2018, outlining the steps taken by the three agencies with regards a serious child protection matter, we need to ask a number of questions.

Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘We call on Minister Zappone to clarify what actions are expected of those with responsibility for child safety and wellbeing, upon a determination by Tusla of ‘unfounded’ concerning an allegation of child sexual abuse?

‘Scouting Ireland tell us that, ‘on the basis’ of the Tusla written notification to them that they had determined the child sexual abuse allegation was ‘unfounded’, reinstated a person who was still under Garda investigation. It is deeply concerning that our child protection agency could have been understood to have ‘cleared’ someone still under investigation by an Garda Siochána.

‘What liaison is there between the Gardaí and Tusla when Tusla make such a determination? Did the Tusla letter to Scouting Ireland notify the organisation that a criminal investigation process was separate and possibly ongoing? Did they indicate that an ‘unfounded’ determination was not the same as saying that they had assessed or even ‘cleared’ the person in question?

‘As organisations with responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of children we need to have clarity on what branch of the state we defer to on these matter, if at all.’

The statistics – How many cases are deemed ‘unfounded’?

In a response to a journalists’ recent FoI, Tusla stated that they do not collate their rate of founded/unfounded determinations. A number of Oireachtas members have asked Tusla for their numbers on founded/unfounded determinations. These answers have been difficult to decipher but if we understand the latest response to a parliamentary question properly, Tusla makes ‘referrals’ in, on average, only 5% of adult historical reports regarding those who may continue to pose a risk to children. What proportion of child cases are deemed ‘unfounded’ is still not a figure that would appear to be available to the Oireachtas or the public.

Link to latest PQ see 547 & 548 http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail2018032700082?opendocument#WRZ04700

End
For more information

Clíona Saidléar, 087 2196447

24th April 2018

RCNI appalled by incident of ‘rape list’ in school toilets and call for urgent action

Today it was revealed that a school in Cork found a list of girls’ names written on the wall of the boy’s toilets with an invitation to vote with ticks for the one that would then be subjected to rape. The school reacted promptly but this incident leaves many questions. RCNI hope both those directly involved and the whole school community are receiving the support and appropriate response they need.

Clíona Saidléar, Executive Director of RCNI said, ‘the threat to rape a child is such a serious matter and should be considered by the Gardaí and an investigation opened if appropriate. This story comes a day after rugby pundit Willie John McBride on an RTE radio programme described sexist, disrespectful and violent behaviour by male sports stars as mere silliness for which no young man should be held accountable. Is it any wonder our young boys think threats to rape are a joke?

‘RCNI acknowledge that the Minister for Education and Skills Minister Bruton has announced a review of the sex education curriculum in all schools, ensuring consent education is available. This is clearly urgent and important.

‘We would also urge him to ensure schools and parents can no longer exempt their children from this right to be informed. The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill 2018 to be debated on the 18th of April in the Dáil seeks to do that.

‘The school in question appear to have responded promptly and are proactively engaging with the whole school community but it must be acknowledged they do so in a vacuum. It may be unfair to judge this schools’ response to this crisis as no national policy or guidance exists to deal with this situation. RCNI have been advocating for a safe to learn strategy since 2013 when the Action Plan on Bullying excluded sexual harassment from its area of concern. There is no blue print for this school to follow. We would urge the Minister to address this gap in school supports urgently, both in our duty to provide care and a safe learning environment and as a matter of employment rights of the staff.’

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press release
12th April 2018

For information
Clíona Saidléar 087 2196447