A Donegal businesswoman is appealing for people in the county to back a campaign for the national child sexual abuse helpline.

The CARI (Children at Risk Ireland) Helpline costs €85,000 a year to run but gets no State funding, says Trish Hegarty, from Inishowen.

She said: “The Helpline Appeal is asking for 85 people or businesses to raise €1,000 each to keep this essential service open. I’ve signed up, but they really need three people from each county to sign-up too in order to reach their target. So, I’m appealing for just two more people or businesses in Donegal to back this campaign.”

“There is a tendency to think of child sexual abuse as something in the past, but it happens all the time in Ireland today and children and their families need support.”

CARI is the leading Irish charity providing child-centred therapy and support services for children, adolescents and families affected by child sexual abuse. CARI chief executive/clinical officer, Emer O’Neill says the Helpline is the first point of contact for those with concerns about child sexual abuse.

“Parents struggle to cope when faced with the unimaginable horror that their child is being sexually abused. They often fear talking about it without breaching their child’s privacy. Our Helpline gives them essential support but needs your help to survive and expand.”

Emer O’Neill

The CARI Helpline Appeal is backed by Irish rugby player, Eimear Considine and leading entrepreneur, former Tipp hurler and child sexual abuse survivor, Tony Delaney.

Mr Delaney spoke openly about his experiences on the RTE Late Late Show recently.

He said: “As a child sexual abuse victim, I understand first-hand the impacts that it can have on a child’s life and into your adult life.

“We know that children and their loved ones struggle to navigate the effects of the abuse. It often seems like there is nowhere to turn to for guidance or support and I believe CARI’s child sexual abuse Helpline assists the victim and their families voyage this trauma.”

Trish Hegarty’s company, Inis Communications, is working with CARI on the Helpline Appeal campaign. But Trish says she “wanted to sign up personally to support it too. It’s been shocking to learn about the calls the Helpline receives, but also a wake-up call that child sexual abuse is not just an historic issue”.

Trish Hegarty, Inis Communications. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

CARI has released anonymised details of Helpline calls they receive, but please note that readers may find these disturbing:

Mother phones: “My 12-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by another group of teens in the bathroom of a burger bar. I need help”.

Mother phones: “Whilst putting my 6-year-old son to bed last night he told me that he does not like the games his Uncle plays with him and that he does not like it when he asks him to touch his pee pee”.

Teacher phones: “At break time yesterday I walked into the bathroom and found two 5-year-olds in a state of undress. One was asking the other to kiss his private parts. They both said it was a game they had been playing for a while”.

Mother phones: “My 8-year-old son has been abused online and I don’t know what to do. The perpetrator got him to take videos and photographs of him touching himself sexually and send them to him”.

The CARI Helpline is open Mon – Fri, 9.00am – 5.00pm on 0818 924567. To find out more the CARI Helpline Appeal and to sign up, go to http://www.cari.ie/helpline-appeal/ .

To support Trish Hegarty’s fundraiser on Facebook go to: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1579037659288892/ .