Rape crisis centres are urging Health Minister James Reilly not to cut their funding any more as figures show an 11% jump in the number of people contacting centres last year.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said demand from those affected by sexual violence increased again in 2011.
“Rape Crisis Centres have seen a relentless, year-on-year increase in demand on their services, which are free,” said policy officer Cliona Saidlear.
“In newly-released RCNI National Rape Crisis figures, we can reveal that in 2011 there was an 11% increase from 2010 in survivors and others seeking counselling and support from our specialist services. This is on top of a 9% increase from the previous year.”
The new figures show:
* 2,541 people took up counselling and support with 15 Rape Crisis Centres throughout Ireland in 2011;
* 6% increase in counselling time in 2011, with 20,727 hours provided to women, men and children;
* 9% jump in contacts to RCC helplines compared to 2010, with 28,615 contacts made throughout the year.
Ms Saidlear said it had been increasingly challenging to maintain highly skilled and specialised free services for survivors of sexual violence in the face of year-on-year cuts to core funding.
“In 2009 some RCCs experienced cuts as high as 15%, in 2010 the cuts ranged from 2% to 10% and there were further cuts in 2011,” she said.
Ms Saidlear said that in 2012, as a result of co-ordination between HSE and RCNI at a national level, cuts had been capped at 5%.
She said sustaining services, given the increased demand and the cuts in funding, had only been possible through the commitment of RCC staff and volunteers nationwide.
Miriam Duffy, RCNI chairperson and director of Rape Crisis Midwest said: “We know how much strength it takes for a survivor to reach out for support.
“Therefore, it is with great sadness that we have had to affect cutbacks because we know that these cuts mean that we cannot fully meet survivor’s needs at the time they need it.”
She added: “All centres have done everything they can to protect our core work with survivors and their supporters, by 2012 for most RCCs this was no longer possible. Most recently, two centres have closed down outreach services. As a result Co Wicklow has no rape crisis service, and those affected now have to travel to neighbouring counties.”
* www.rcni.ie; National 24-hour helpline: 1800 778888
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