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98% increase in people contacting rape crisis centres for support during pandemic

More than 4,400 contacts were made to six centres from March to June.

THERE WAS A significant increase in the number of people contacting six rape crisis centres (RCCs) in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a 98% increase in those seeking counselling and support.

From 1 March to 30 June, 4,413 contacts were made with RCC helplines, according to figures release by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) today.

These included phone calls, texts, emails, contacts through social media, and letters. This marked a 23% increase in helpline contacts compared to the same period in 2019.

The largest increase in helpline contacts took place in March (63%). In April, the number of helpline contacts was 33% above the same period in 2019. In May, contacts were similar to the previous year with a 6% increase. In June, the number of helpline contacts reduced significantly and was 14% lower than usage in June 2019.

In the four-month period being examined, the number of survivors contacting RCC helplines for counselling and support increased by 98% – 647 survivors in 2019 compared to 1,284 survivors in 2020.

There was a notable increase of 83% in the length of time spent on calls made to RCC helplines.

Elaine Mears, RCNI’s Data and Privacy Coordinator, said: “Where previously helpline contacts may have been just a few minutes, now they were lasting over 30 minutes, with calls up to an hour and a half increasing five-fold when compared to the same period last year.”

Most people who were already engaging in counselling in the centres were able to switch to remote counselling in mid-March, but some were not.

Typically, 10 times more female survivors and supporters access RCC helplines than males.

Age groups

During the pandemic, there was an increase in survivors of all age groups contacting RCCs for support, especially those aged between 40-49.

Dr Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director, said: “From our conversations with counsellors and managers in RCCs we believe that this is in a large part due to the lockdown measures triggering past trauma.

“This age cohort are often holding multiple responsibilities such as care of children and elders as well as unemployment, increasing pressures at this time.”

There was a 69% increase in the number of contacts made to RCCs by individuals seeking information, and a 72% increase in the number of professionals accessing the helplines.

Alongside this, 781 children and young people aged between 12 and 23 engaged with the six RCCs.

“We do remain concerned for children during this period and know that there are many who have not been able to ask for support and help.

“We need redoubled government and Tusla commitment to ensure that Rape Crisis Centres, alongside other specialist services and partners, the gardaí, sexual assault treatment units and children’s specialist services will be here when they do,” Dr Saidléar said.

The six RCCS included in the report are Carlow and South Leinster Rape Crisis Centre; Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre; Mayo Rape Crisis Centre; Rape Crisis Midwest; Rape Crisis North East and Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.

A 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.

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