The ISPCC has highlighted the need for a national strategy on child sexual abuse, violence and exploitation, as well as an updated programme of Relationships and Sexual Education, as Recorded Crime statistics published by the Central Statistics Office today show one-fifth of all detected cases of sexual violence involve children both as victims and as suspected offenders.
The charity which provides support services to children, young people and families across Ireland said it welcomes the reporting of any such suspected cases and urged that children and young people be empowered and equipped with the language to recognise and report any inappropriate sexual behaviour, abuse or violence.
The Childline Listening Service, as delivered by the ISPCC, answered over 2,100 online messages, calls and texts in 2020 from children and young people across Ireland concerned about sexual abuse.
ISPCC Chief Executive John Church said: “Through our work with children and young people, we know that sexual violence, as with violence of any other nature, is a heinous crime, which can have a devastating and long-lasting impact. It is listed as one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which can change the course of children’s lives. It is now time for the Government to show leadership by recognising the need for a national and multi-agency strategy for responding to child sexual abuse, violence and exploitation, as the Garda Inspectorate has recommended.
“An updated programme of Relationships and Sexuality Education in our schools is vital also to meeting the needs of children and young people in Ireland today and reflecting the seismic changes which have taken place in the country since the current programme was published in 1999.
“We know from children and young people who turn to Childline today that they can search online for answers to questions which have not been covered through RSE in school. The results to these searches can be pornographic in nature and can lead to confusion and perceived unrealistic expectations of what constitutes a positive, healthy, sexual relationship. It is essential, therefore, that the negative impact of pornography form a central part of discussions on reforming SPHE and RSE.
“Irish society in recent decades has heard of too many instances where children who were sexually abused did not have the language to explain what was happening to them, or the understanding that what was happening to them was wrong. A truly innovative and dynamic new RSE programme will empower all children and young people, by making them familiar with the concept of sexuality and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy, or inappropriate, relationships. This could assist in the prevention of, or early intervention in, potential child sexual abuse cases happening in the future.
“Today and every day, everyone can play a vital role in helping to keep children safe. It is important that individuals are alert to the potential of a child or young person being at risk and take appropriate action by reporting any concerns to An Garda Síochána or to Tusla.”
The Childline Listening Service is always available to any child or young person in Ireland who would like to talk about any issue which may be on their mind.
The service can be reached in the following ways:
Chat online: Childline.ie
Call: 1800 66 66 66