Connolly demands 'immediate re-opening' of Sexual Assault Treatment Unit

Closure of unit means child victims of sexual violence will have to travel to Dublin for assessment

Closure of the Sexual Assault Treatment for Children in Galway is "unacceptable" and it must be reopened "immediately" especially as sexual assault and violence remains one of the most under-reported and under-recorded of crimes.

This is the view of Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly, who said the closure of the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Unit means child victims of sexual violence will have to travel to Dublin for assessment.

The unit opened in 2009 and became a 24 hour service in 2011. It assessed/treated 70 children alone in 2015. Cllr Connolly described the service as "absolutely essential", given the prevalence of sexual assault and violence. In underlining the importance of the unit, Cllr Connolly cited the 2002 Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Study, which consulted more than 3,000 randomly selected Irish adults and found 42 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lives.

"Given this, and the various reports into child sexual abuse including the Ryan Report, the Murphy Report and the Roscommon Enquiry, the closure of a dedicated Sexual Assault Unit for children under 14 years of age simply beggars belief," she said. "It is all the more unacceptable given the enormous effort it took to have the unit opened in the first place."

The CASAT operated from a rented building in an industrial estate, and Cllr Connolly has accused the HSE West of "taking a retrograde step" of allowing the centre to close, "rather than examining the construction of a permanent premises in Merlin Park".

However, Cllr Connolly has welcomed confirmation that the HSE West will meet with medical personnel tomorrow [Thursday January 7] to try and resolve the difficulties that have arisen. Cllr Connolly will raise the closure of the unit "as a matter of urgency" at the next Regional Health Forum Meeting on January 26.

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