Rape Crisis Midwest has said the number of calls it receives year-on-year has steadily increased.
The organisation, which serves Limerick, Clare, and north Tipperary, received 350 calls in 2012.
The figures rose to 438 in 2013 and 578 in 2014, with signs of a further increase in 2015. To date, it has received 535 calls this year.
The trend is similar at a national level, with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, which provides a 24-hour national helpline, also recording a rise in demand for its services.
Last year, more than 12,000 calls were made to the Dublin centre with approximately 10,000 of those genuine counselling calls.
Both of the organisations revealed an increase in the number of men seeking help. So far this year, 74 of the 535 calls to Rape Crisis Midwest came from men.
Miriam Duffy, executive director of Rape Crisis Midwest, described it as a “huge increase”, but said the percentage of male clients coming to the centre in person only stands at between 10% and 15%.
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said more men seeking counselling was important.
“We have seen an increase year-on-year of men physically coming into the centre for therapy,” said Ms O’Malley Dunlop. “It’s not positive obviously, they are victims, but it is positive that they are coming forward and getting the support they need.”
Ms O’Malley Dunlop said there was also a dramatic increase in the number of first-time callers using the centre this year.
According to Ms Duffy, meanwhile, the raised demand on rape crisis centres was due to a combination of factors and had led to counselling waiting lists becoming “longer and longer”.
“I believe that the increase in the availability of pornography and the sexualisation of young people without any real education has contributed to the rise in sexual violence,” she said.
“We are also becoming more accessible to people and there is more awareness in the general public about our services which encourages more people to come to us for help.”
Ms Duffy acknowledged the annual increase in use of services, combined with the yearly cuts Rape Crisis Midwest has experienced, has put pressure on the organisation.
“There is definitely increased pressure,” she said.
Rape Crisis Midwest has had a 10% drop in funding each year since 2008. Last year, the funding shortfall was €120,000.
In order to minimise costs in 2014, staff were forced to take a month’s unpaid leave. This led to two of the satellite centres in Nenagh and Ennis closing for four weeks.
Rape Crisis Midwest, headquartered in Limerick, did not have to resort to closing any centres this year. Although its funding from State agencies was retained at the 2014 level, Ms Duffy said uncertainty over finances was just “part of the daily grind now”.
“I certainly wouldn’t be giving them a medal because they didn’t put another cut in place this year,” she said.
Rape Crisis Midwest has not had clarification yet as to the level of funding it will receive in 2016. Ms Duffy said that, in previous years, the organisation could make a “rough stab” at what the funding might amount to but, as of yet, has no idea what to expect.
“January 2016 will have us in the same position we were in last January,” she said.
Similarly, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has also faced substantial reductions to its budget. Ms O’Malley Dunlop expressed serious concern about the cutbacks, stating the organisation’s grant from the Government had been cut on an annual basis since 2008.
“Almost a third of our funding (28%) is gone. At the moment everyone is on a frozen salary and has been facing cuts of between 5% and 20% since 2008 which is absolutely unsustainable.”
The national 24-hour helpline for victims of sexual violence is 1800 778888
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