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Over 6,000 people contacted the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for the first time in 2020

People who asked for support were “more anxious and felt more isolated” during the pandemic compared to previous years.

MORE THAN 6,000 people contacted the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s national 24-hour helpline for the first time in 2020.

People that the DRCC supported last year were “more anxious and felt more isolated” during the pandemic compared to previous years, according to the centre’s new annual report.

In total, its helpline received 13,438 emails, calls, texts, or online messages, with at least 6,451 coming from people contacting the service for the first time.

Nearly half of the contacts who disclosed their experience of abuse related to cases of rape in adults.

A further 10% came from adult sexual assault, while child sexual abuse accounted for 27.2% of the contacts.

Details of the abuse were undisclosed in 12.5% of cases and sexual harassment accounted for 1.5%.

Minister Josepha Madigan, who is launching the centre’s 2020 report in Dublin this morning, said that it highlights how “domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence continues to impact upon our society”.

“The effects of the pandemic over recent months have shown how the nature of such crimes have changed and become more prevalent in some cases as restrictions have constrained the work of agencies and survivor groups,” the minister said.

Of the three-quarters of people who disclosed their gender, 83% were recorded as women, 16.8% as men, and 0.2% as other.

The largest proportion of people who told the centre their age were between 50 and 59 – 22.5% – followed by 30 to 39 at 19.1%.

DRCC age breakdown Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
63.7% lived in Dublin and 96.2% were of Irish nationality.

Of 268 cases of rape where the centre knows whether the case was reported to gardaí, 96 cases – 36% – were reported.

Of those cases, 43 were under garda investigation, five had been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions or the client, and two went to trial.

The outcome of the report was not disclosed for 46 cases.

The DRCC’s accompaniment service, which gives to support to survivors at visits to the Rotunda Hospital’s Sexual Assault Treatment Unit and in the justice system in court and at Garda stations, was “heavily impacted” by Covid-19 restrictions.

Similarly, the restrictions that came in from March last year meant all training and support was carried out online.

CEO Noeline Blackwell said that “across the board, our therapists, telephone counsellors and others hearing from victims/survivors found that those whom we supported were more anxious and felt more isolated”.

Introducing the report, Blackwell said “fewer client cases were closed in 2020 than in previous years as clients dealt with all the additional anxieties and upsets of Covid-19 and restrictions, as well as the injuries visited on them by sexual violence”.

“Throughout the year, we continued to receive requests for training from those working with victims/ survivors of sexual violence in other disciplines, as well as those in either institutions or advocacy groups who seek to prevent such violence from happening in the first place,” Blackwell said.

She said that higher education initiatives “encouraging greater engagement with third level colleges on issues of sexual harassment and abuse meant those who were rolling out their own training and examining their own processes needed more support”.

Blackwell said the centre was grateful for donations it received last year but that “there is no doubt that our capacity to raise the funds we need to maintain our work was substantially diminished by the onset of the pandemic measures in March 2020″.

“While it was the same for many other not-for-profit bodies as well as for-profit businesses, the ongoing uncertainty which resulted remains a worry for us.”

The 24-hour helpline run by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted on 1800 778 888, or you can find your closest centre here.