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Calls to rape crisis helpline increase as service warns of drop in funds due to pandemic

Since restrictions were eased there has been a “significant surge in demand” for the DRCC’s services.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE DUBLIN RAPE Crisis Centre (DRCC) has warned its services will come under pressure as demand increases while its funds are seeing a drop due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CEO Noeline Blackwell said since restrictions have eased there has been a “significant surge in demand”.

“Our difficulty is that our public fundraising has fallen off a cliff,” she said. “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.”

According to the DRCC’s annual report for last year, due to be launched this afternoon, there were 14,159 total contacts to the National Helpline, up almost 6% over 2018.

The number of those seeking therapy and counselling from DRCC also grew to 617 clients in 2019. Some 300 people were directly supported in attending the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit following rape or sexual assault, as well as 240 of their friends and family members.

There was also a “stark increase” in those seeking accompaniment through the criminal justice system.

During the most severe Covid-19 restrictions, the 24-hour helpline service continued to operate. DRCC said those calling the line reported significantly higher feelings of anxiety and isolation.

The number of people contacting the helpline was lower than expected in the first weeks of lockdown, when those who needed the service felt they did not have adequate privacy or mental or physical space to call. However as restrictions eased, there was a significant upsurge in contacts.

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Today the DRCC is launching a new service with a webchat function for those who prefer to get in tough that way or for those who do not have space to have a phone conversation discreetly.

“We were lucky enough to be able to maintain full service throughout lockdown and we know this meant a lot to the people we support,” said Blackwell. She cited the 2019 statistic that approximately 20% of the centre’s clients reporting abuse as adults had suffered at the hands of intimate partners, ex-partners or people they were dating and said 2020 may mark a turn for the worse.

“Victims of sexual violence are telling us about high levels of anger among abusers. Unfortunately the safest place for an abuser to vent that anger is in the home, on those nearest to them, with less fear of consequences,” she explained.

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