Gardaí investigate alleged rape at health center

Gardaí is investigating an allegation that a young woman with an intellectual disability was raped by a member of staff at a residential facility during the lockdown.

The criminal investigation has been ongoing since last year after the young woman was removed from the facility by her family who were concerned for her well-being.

She disclosed the alleged abuse to her family and it is believed the staff member has been suspended pending an investigation.

Specialized detectives are questioning the young woman and her family.

An advocacy group helping the family said the young woman, who has trouble verbalizing, lived in a designated center for people with disabilities.

She was allegedly abused by a male member of staff for an extended period during the Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time when her family had limited access to her.

The group, Care Champions, asked that the facility not be identified to protect the identity of the alleged victim. However, it is understood the service is run by a voluntary provider funded by the HSE.

The alleged rape is the second case to come to public attention involving allegations of abuse of vulnerable people during lockdown.

Caregiver raped elderly woman with Alzheimer’s diseaseisease during the night shift at a care home during lockdown in April 2020.

Emmanuel Adeniji, of Royal Canal Court, Kilcock, initially denied the attack but pleaded guilty after his DNA matched a sample from the victim and CCTV showed him entering and leaving his bedroom on the night of the crime. He was jailed for 11 years in July 2020.

Another case of abuse came to light in Donegal last year when it emerged that 18 residents had been sexually abused by another resident at a center. A damning report into the abuse found him was allowed to continue with management knowledge.

The latest allegations emerged amid growing concerns about sexual abuse of vulnerable people. The number of people reporting their suspicions of sexual abuse has increased.

The regulator of residential care facilities, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), received a total of 143 complaints about suspected sexual abuse in nursing homes and centers for the disabled over the past of the last seven years.

He received 18 concerns about sexual abuse in residential centers in 2020, which increased to 32 last year.

He received five allegations of sexual abuse involving care home residents in the first six weeks of this year alone.

The increase was significantly higher in the disability sector, with 11 sexual abuse concerns reported to Hiqa last year, compared to three the previous year.

In six cases, Hiqa reported the allegations to the gardaí because the service provider failed to do so.

The figures were given to Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, who highlighted the problem in the Dáil.

Care Champions has been supporting the young woman’s family since the abuse allegations emerged.

Majella Beattie, a spokesperson for the organization, said there needs to be greater recognition of the difficulties faced by vulnerable people who are abused. She added that families are often told that the victim is not considered a “reliable witness”, so a criminal prosecution is unlikely.

“It means those who are least able to protect themselves and who are most vulnerable to abuse receive less justice in our system,” she said. “In our experience, it is much harder for people with certain disabilities or cognitive impairments like dementia to get justice when they experience abuse of all kinds, including sexual abuse.”

Ms Beattie said the new gender-based violence strategy and any future protective legislation must recognize the unique needs of people who may not be able to speak up and report their own abuse.

The HSE said it could not comment on individual cases but was committed to protecting all vulnerable adults.

In the event of an allegation or suspicion of abuse occurring at a designated centre, the registered provider is required to inform Hiqa and backup and protection teams.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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