Six per cent rise in callers seeking support from rape crisis centre

Six per cent rise in callers seeking support from rape crisis centre

Noeline Blackwell

The latest annual report from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) shows a six per cent rise in people contacting its national helpline for support from 2018 to 2019.

There were a total of 14,159 contacts to the helpline in 2019 and the number of individuals seeking therapy and counselling from the DRCC also grew to 617.

DRCC’s sexual assault treatment unit also directly supported some 300 people following rape or sexual assault, as well as 240 of their family and friends.

Approximately 20 per cent of the those reporting abuse as adults had suffered that abuse at the hands of intimate partners, ex-partners or people they were dating.

DRCC has also reported an 118 per cent increase in those seeking its accompaniment through the criminal justice system.

Human rights lawyer and CEO of DRCC, Noeline Blackwell, noted the surge in demand for support and referenced the justice system accompaniment service as a key support for people.

She said: “We have to underline again what a lonely place the justice system is for those who report sexual offences. While we are glad to support as many as we can, our support, dependent on the public fundraising resources we can bring to it, is no substitute for adequate structured supports for victims of these most intimate of crimes.”

Speaking ahead of the launch of the report, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Annual Report in 2019 vividly illustrates the significant problem of sexual violence we still face in Ireland.

“I recently launched the O’Malley ‘Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences’ and my department is now developing a comprehensive implementation plan for it.

“I am committed to urgent action, to deliver real and significant improvements- not only in relation to the treatment of victims in the justice system, but also in broader societal attitudes and prevention of sexual violence.

“I must also pay tribute to the staff and many dedicated volunteers of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The services provided by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre are vital and all of society owes it a debt of gratitude for its ongoing work.”

DRCC has welcomed the publication of the so-called O’Malley Review, but added: “Our difficulty is that our public fundraising has fallen off a cliff. Our normal cycle of fundraising events is at a standstill since March 2020 following COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are glad that both the Department of Justice and Tusla recognised sexual violence support services as priority services and continued their support for 2020.

“However, we are highlighting now that as restrictions have eased, there has been a significant surge in demand, putting our services under unprecedented pressure. It will be essential that we can continue and even expand our work to cope with that surge as we face into the winter and into 2021.”

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