Family the most common setting for abuse
Abuse within the family continues to be the most prevalent setting for abuse to occur, according to half yearly figures from Connect counselling.
Connect, which is an out of hours telephone service for abuse survivors, answered 2,600 calls in the first half of the year and almost 70% of callers reported physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Of these 45% of callers reported that the abuse happened within the family home. 26% reported that they had experienced abuse in their community and 15% reported abuse in Institutions.
Connect Service Manager Theresa Merrigan said Connect’s service figures go against the common perception that abuse in Ireland has been largely an institutional problem. The figures highlight a higher prevalence in the family setting, particularly relating to abuse which has occurred more recently.
Connect is a free service established in 2006 at the request of survivor groups and opens from 6-10pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Overall the service received 4,435 calls in the six months to June which was a similar level to last year. Connect’s Counsellors and Psychotherapists answered approximately 86% of calls received during opening hours, a 6% increase compared to the same period in 2013.
71% of callers were aged under 50. 28% of callers were under 40 years and the majority of these reported abuse within the family home. None of the callers under 40 reported institutional abuse.
32% of calls were from men, 66% from women and 2% transgender.
Regionally there was a broad reach across the country with male callers from rural areas increasing and in some instances surpassing female callers. For instance in Cavan, Kilkenny, Longford, Meath, Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford, Sligo and Wexford the ratio of male to female callers was approximately 2:1.
These callers often reported being isolated and unable, or unwilling to access face to face services and stated a preference for telephone based support.
The announcement of the Mother and Baby Home Inquiry, and subsequent expansion of the Connect service to open seven days a week from mid June to the end of July, has resulted in more calls from family members of people who spent time in institutions. Statistics will be released at the end of the summer in relation to service uptake during this period.
Connect Service Manager Theresa Merrigan said that many callers who contact Connect have exhausted services elsewhere.
“The high level of need amongst many callers to Connect points to a lack of intense psychotherapy places for callers with severe childhood trauma. Very often the challenging behaviour of people who have suffered severe childhood trauma means that they find it difficult to access adequate services.
“This is an ongoing concern for the Connect Service which is telephone based and therefore unable to provide callers with all the supports that they need. It can be difficult to know where to signpost such callers to as they often have difficult relationships with their local mental health team or psychiatrist.”
Connect is available at freephone 1800 477 477 from the Republic of Ireland and00800 477 477 77 from Northern Ireland and the UK. Further information is at www.connectcounselling.ie. Connect is HSE funded.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.