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Homeless crisis: Rise in calls to rape helpline from people who have lost their homes

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is reporting a marked increase in contacts from people who have been rendered homeless.

Updated at 12.50pm

THE DUBLIN RAPE Crisis Centre observed an increase in the number of calls to its helpline from people who had lost their homes last year, according to the service’s annual report.

There was also an increase in contacts from people dealing with mental health issues who had lost support services.

Launched in Dublin today, the 2015 report shows that almost 12,000 people contacted the centre’s national helpline last year. The organisation also provided face-to-face therapy to 499 people, and accompanied victims of sexual abuse to hospital and to garda stations.

“Two distressing trends became apparent,” in 2015, the report said.

“There was a marked increase in calls from people who had been rendered homeless and the resulting vulnerability made them targets for rape.

They described feelings of being weighed down by the chaos and uncertainty they were faced with, oftentimes being unable to commit to counselling or any intervention because they were just trying to survive.

Callers struggling to maintain their mental health were often “experiencing psychiatric symptoms and feel rejected by the system, resulting in anger, frustration and suicidal ideation,” the report added.

Repeated assaults 

Victims of abuse are often referred to the rape crisis centre by homeless charities, head of clinical services with the organisation Angela McCarthy told TheJournal.ie.

“When we meet the person or we speak to them on the phone we are conscious that they don’t have the security of a roof over their heads, very often.

And, on top of that, they’re experiencing then the trauma of rape or sexual assault – very often repeated sexual assaults. And they’re at risk if they haven’t got somewhere to stay.

Telephone counsellors with the centre have noticed an increase in calls from people who are homeless in the last number of years – from around the start of the recession, McCarthy added.

The team had noted a “repeat pattern” she said. “We know that if they are out on the streets again, if they’re sleeping rough or not in a safe environment, they’re at risk again of being abused or raped.”

Those kind of themes of poverty and indebtedness and homelessness – we’ve been hearing them for five or six years.

Figures 

Launching the report at the centre’s Dublin offices on Leeson Street, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said the service offered sanctuary in the “most desperate of moments”.

“Rape causes trauma, loneliness and fear,” the independent TD said.

As a feminist, campaigner and Government Minister I fully support your work over the past 40 years and value your input into the formation of policy and law.

Of the calls dealt with by the centre’s helpline last year, 5,902 were first time contacts. Around two thirds of calls were from the Dublin area, with the remainder from elsewhere in the country. In addition:

  • 76% of callers were female and 23% of callers were male. 0.51% were transgender.
  • 51% of calls related to adult sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
  • 49% of calls related to childhood sexual abuse, including ritual abuse.
  • 95% of callers were of Irish nationality, the remaining 5% represent 57 other nationalities.
  • 51% of clients were victims of adult rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
  • 49% of clients were victims of childhood sexual abuse.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre helpline can be reached 24 hours a day on 1800 77 8888. 

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