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Ruhama reports 18 per cent increase in demand for support services

Group which assists women affected by prostitution and trafficking says it supported 241 women last year.

Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/AP

THE NUMBER OF WOMEN accessing Ruhama’s support services for women affected by prostitution and trafficking grew by almost one-fifth last year, according to the group’s annual report for 2011.

In total, the group supported 241 women, 41 of whom were assisted through the group’s street outreach programme.

The 200 women whom Ruhama supported in casework last year came from 36 different countries. Ninety-one were suspected victims of sex trafficking.

Last year, 44 per cent of the women who sought help from Ruhama were new referrals, while the remaining 56 per cent were ongoing cases.

The report also says that Ruhama worked with agencies including the HSE Separated Children Team to provide support to vulnerable young people.

Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson said that the experiences reported by the women to Ruhama “echo those reported by women every year for the last 22 years of Ruhama’s existence”, including physical and sexual assault, degrading abuse, hypervigilance and feelings of isolation.

She also said that “changing methods of control used by traffickers are making it more difficult for authorities to identify the hard edge of trafficking”.

“While the number of new referrals of victims of trafficking is slightly lower than last year, we believe this decrease is not representative of the overall scale of the problem in Ireland.”

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“The over reliance on the immigration system to detect victims of trafficking and the fact that most victims are forced to make their own escape from traffickers, if they are to access help, results in a relatively low number of victims receiving assistance in Ireland,” she added.

Launching the annual report, Ruhama’s chairperson Valerie Judge said that there is no other service in Ireland to assist women in leaving prostitution. “Ruhama is committed to remaining a supportive presence for women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking, in their often dangerous journeys,” she added.

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