More than half of all sexual assault and rape victims attending the Sexual Violence Centre Cork last year did not report the incident to gardaí.
Figures from the support organisation also show 35% of clients last year were students while 15% were aged between 14 and 18 years old.
The Sexual Violence Centre Cork (SVCC) 2016 annual report, to be launched tomorrow, also shows that almost one third of clients reported being a victim of multiple episodes of sexual abuse, while 26% of clients did not know the identity of the perpetrator.
However, the director of SVCC, Mary Crilly, said one of the main issues that persisted was victims wrongly blaming themselves for being raped or sexually assaulted, often because they did know the perpetrator and did not want to get them in trouble. The report shows 45% of clients reported the attack to gardaí.
Ms Crilly also said she despaired at some of the language used in society about young women and added that victim-blaming was often associated with families not wanting to confront the issue of sex abuse within the family unit.
The annual report showed 310 people used the SVCC service last year, of whom 248 were first-time clients.
That marks a slight rise on the comparable figure for 2015, with the figures showing 91% of clients were women. Adult assault and rape accounted for 53% of cases, with 27% relating to adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Among adult clients, half were aged 18 to 23 at the time of the incident, 22% were aged 24 to 29, and 14% were aged 30 to 39.
The telephone helpline received 1,426 calls and 1,006 contacts were made through the text service, while SVCC staff attended 92 callouts to the sexual assault treatment unit.
Ms Crilly said: “I would have hoped that the extent of child abuse would have altered but it has not. We tolerate it and I think we minimise it.”
She welcomed the introduction of the new protective services unit at Anglesea St Garda Station in Cork but added that more efforts were needed to erase victim blaming.
“A lot of them are saying ‘I would have known the perpetrator’ and they don’t want anybody to know about it,” she said. “They do not want to get them into trouble. They feel that they are in some way to blame. It’s horrific. We just have to keep challenging attitudes.”
A quarter of sex attacks involving clients occurred in the victim’s house and 22% happened in the perpetrator’s house. While 10% of attackers were under 18, 46% were aged 18 to 29. In 13% of cases, the victim alleged three or more perpetrators.
Writing in the report, Ms Crilly said funding was “an ongoing issue” and has remained static for the past five years.
“My hope is that funding will be increased to allow us to restore service provision in West Cork and North Cork,” she said, adding that she was disappointed that COSC, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, had diverted funding of local organisations for awareness raising programmes to national campaigns.
The annual report showed 60% of clients lived in Cork City, with the remainder split between other parts of Co Cork, Kerry, and beyond.
Ms Crilly also said units should open to deal with those aged under 14.
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