Over 13,000 contacts were made to the national rape helpline last year - that is around 270 contacts every single week, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has said.
It operates the country's national 24-hour helpline and according to its 2018 Annual Report, which has just been published, 13,367 contacts were made last year, more than half of which (7,423) were first-time contacts.
Among those who disclosed the type of abuse they had suffered, 44% said they had been raped as adults, while 33% said they had been victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Among those who had been raped or sexually assaulted as adults, almost three-quarters involved a perpetrator known to the victim. In almost 20% of cases, the perpetrator was their partner/boyfriend, while in 51% of cases it was another known person.
When it came to childhood abuse, the perpetrator was almost always someone known to the child, including a parent, sibling, other relative or other known person.
Over 40% of callers to the helpline in 2018 were aged between 30 and 49, while almost 5% were under the age of 18.
Some 77% of callers were women, while 22% were men. Of those who disclosed their location, 65% were from Dublin.
Aside from the helpline, the report also provided details about other services offered. It said that in 2018, over 4,200 face-to-face therapy appointments were delivered to almost 600 clients, while 246 group therapy hours were provided.
Some 254 people were accompanied to the Rotunda Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU), court or Garda stations, while 148 friends or family members of victims were also supported.
However, the report noted that the Rotunda SATU was closed on a number of occasions during the first nine months of 2018, as a result of staffing difficulties. Some sexual assault victims had to be redirected to other SATUs, mostly in Mullingar, "adding to the trauma they had to endure", the DRCC pointed out.
"Thankfully, the situation improved in the last quarter of 2018 and there have been no problems so far in 2019. The Department of Health commitment earlier this year to an adequately resourced, consistent SATU service across the country will be a relief for all those who need the excellent service SATU gives victims following rape or other assaults," commented DRCC chief executive, Noeline Blackwell.
The report also revealed that 13 female clients disclosed pregnancies as a result of rape. It noted that some of these pregnancies may have been historic, i.e. not all occurred in 2018, but of these, nine had gone on to parent the child, one had an abortion, one miscarried, one had the child adopted and one had the child fostered.
Speaking at the launch of the report, DRCC chairperson, Ann Marie Gill, warned that sexual violence is increasing and more services are needed to meet demand.
"At this point, half way through 2019, demand for the DRCC's services is higher than it has been for many years because more people than ever are disclosing and seeking help. The reality is that people need support in greater numbers than ever," she explained.
The centre noted that in the absense of any firm data, it is impossible to say whether this increase in demand for services "is due to an increase in the level of rape and other sexual abuse, or because of a growing recognition by victims that they are not to blame, that it's never too late to seek help and that there is help available".
It emphasised that this absense of data also impacts efforts to tackle sexual violence. The last study which sought to establish the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland was published 17 years ago - the 2002 Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report.
While the DRCC welcomed an announcement by the Government last year that the Central Statistics Office is to undertake a new study in this area, this will take up to five years to complete and will not include data on minorities or hard-to-reach groups.
The national 24-hour helpline is available 365 days of the year on 1800 77 88 88.
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