Funds from the Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland will help provide a support service for child victims of sexual assault and their families.
Galway-based CASATS (Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Services) and voluntary organisation CARI, who provide a range of services for children affected by child sexual abuse, have been working together to train and pilot volunteer Child and Family Accompaniment Officers for the Paediatric Forensic Medical Services to support child victims of sexual assault and their families.
To date 16 volunteers who have existing experience working with children and families and who are Garda vetted have now been identified and trained. Volunteers will now meet families at first point of contact with the CASATS service, and offer support should the families so wish. The volunteers will participate in an on-call rota, joining children at the time of forensic medical evaluation to support and assist in co-ordinating psychological aftercare.
A start up grant of €19,000 from the Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland, The Commission for Victims of Crime and Ebay enabled the pilot project to run initially for six months, with formal evaluation at the end of that time. However, in May 2014, an additional, hugely welcome, bonus of €12,000 from the Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland now allows it to run for a year.
The project will to some extent mirror existing work provided by Rape Crisis Counsellors in Adult SATUs throughout Ireland already engaging with adolescent and adult victims of sexual violence from 14 years and up. A dedicated CARI professional already working in the Court Accompaniment Service has been assigned to the project one day per week.
Dr Joanne Nelson, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Director, CASATS said, “This project is the first of its kind in Ireland, although already well- established elsewhere in the UK and US. It is an honour to be supported by charitable organisations who have scrutinised our application through a competitive process, and chose to support us.
“Over the course of a full year we aim to offer support to between 60 and 70 families from first point of contact with Forensic Medical Services. Additional funding makes a huge difference to the proposed service which aims to enhance psychological and practical support to child victims and their families at a time of crisis and ultimately to promote healing.”