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'Disturbing' increase in calls to rape helpline in 2012

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre accompanied 260 victims to the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda Hospital last year.

Annual report of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre published today.
Annual report of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre published today.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE DUBLIN RAPE Crisis Centre (DRCC) has reported a 23 per cent increase in the number of first-time calls to its helpline over the last two years.

The statistics form part of the DCC’s annual report in which the DCC say that, “since the recession there has been a disturbing year-on-year increase in calls to the National 24 Hour Helpline from victims of adult sexual violence”.

In total, the DRCC handled 12,040 calls last year, of which 9,142 were genuine counselling calls. 4,647 repeat contacts were received, an increase of 6 per cent on 2011:

  • 83 per cent of callers were from women and 17 per cent were men
  • 44 per cent of calls related to adult rape
  • 8 per cent of calls related to adult sexual assault
  • 54 per cent of calls related to adult sexual violence including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and trafficking.
  • 45 per cent of calls related to childhood sexual abuse, including suspected abuse

Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO of DRCC said that there is little doubt that economic circumstances can affect the number of sexual assaults:

In 2012, 54% of calls to the helpline related to adult sexual violence. 41% of sexual abuse incidents disclosed by 322 new clients in 2012 included other forms of violence, such as physical and psychological abuse, intimidation and threats to kill. This reflects what we know from international research, that sexual violence and violence against women in particular, increases in times of economic recession.

The report also shows increases in services provided by the DCC with 260 victims of rape and sexual assault  accompanied by DRCC’ s trained volunteers to the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda Hospital last year.

There was also a rise in the number of individual appointments by victims last year with 3885 delivered by the centre. Of the appointments, 25 per cent were crisis appointments for men and women who had experienced rape or sexual assaults within the past six months. 75 per cent were appointments for past rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse.

Angela McCarthy, director of clinical services at DRCC said that the service is being availed of by a much more diverse range of individuals with 54 different nationalities contacting the helpline last year. 96% of callers were of Irish nationality, however.

Issues relating to childhood sexual assault in Ireland are also still being dealt with according to McCarthy:

The impact of the Ryan and Murphy Reports is still being experienced in the large numbers of victims seeking therapy for these issues. In 2012, 54 per cent of clients of DRCC were victims of childhood sexual abuse. Pre Ryan and Murphy in 2008, the percentage of clients receiving counselling for childhood sexual abuse was 46 per cent.

On the issue of reporting to the Gardái, the DRCC say that it is not always known whether a Garda report has been made but said that in the 322 cases where the reporting status was known last year, 115 cases were reported to the Gardaí, a reporting rate of 36%.

Of the 115 cases reported to the Gardaí, outcome information was known for 45 cases (39 per cent). Charges were dropped (by client or DPP) in 15 cases, 27 were pending charges and 3 went to trial resulting in 3 convictions.

The report notes that reporting and convictions in this context refer to clients seen by DRCC service in the year 2012, although the reports and convictions may have occurred in previous years.

Speaking following the publication of the report, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor said that, while the report may be shocking, she believes it may not accurately reflect the true scale of the level of sexual abuse in Ireland.

She added that there is perhaps some room to modify the DRCC’s reporting procedures to encourage more victims to contact the centre:

One of the points made at this morning’s briefing was the fact that the disclosure notes that are taken by counsellors at the DRCC during the reporting of a crime could be acting as a dissuasive factor in men and women reporting crimes as often these notes are called on during court proceedings at a later date.

Read: 17 terminations of pregnancy as a result of rape in 2011 >

Read: Rape helpline to see increased calls over Christmas >

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