Rape crisis centres say the rise has been accompanied by a noticeable increase in the level of violence associated with rapes.
New Department of Justice figures show that the number of reported rapes rose by 35% between 2003 and 2005, from 370 to 498.
The figures show there were 413 reported cases of rape of a female in 2005, compared to 315 in 2003, a rise of 31%.
There were 85 cases of rape section four in 2005, compared to 55 in 2003, a rise of 55%. Rape section four covers both female and male rape and includes anal rape and rape using objects or implements.
Clíona Saidlear of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said: “There is a trend here since 2003 where there has been a steady increase in rape of a female and a steady increase in rape section four. That’s a pattern that we can point to as a clear statistical trend.”
The RCNI said they received more than 45,000 calls last year and that some victims were waiting between two weeks and six months for counselling due to a lack of funding.
Ms Saidlear pointed out that the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report in 2002 revealed that only a fraction of victims reported the crime to gardaí.
“We have to remember that there is a very low reporting rate for sexual violence. The SAVI report found that less than one-in-10 reported to gardaí, so we’re seeing here the 10% representation of the overall actual incidents.”
Ms Saidlear said it was difficult to know whether the increase in the figures was the result of increased reporting or a rise in actual incidents.
“We have no way of telling. We would hope that what’s happening is not necessarily an increase in incidents but maybe an increase in people’s willingness to come forward,” she said.
“It might also reflect the violence that accompanies sexual violence, which may increase the reporting. A lot of people feel they won’t be believed unless they have bruises to show.
“We’ve seen from rape crisis centres across the country that there is an increase in the level of violence that accompanies the sexual violence. Although rape itself is violence, the other violence that goes with it, the beatings and brutality, is on the increase.”
Ms Saidlear said the RCNI was going to lobby the Department of Education this year to support and resource an education programme to enable school children to discuss openly and negotiate consent when it comes to sex.
“At the moment, they don’t put any money towards it at all. They need to recognise it is a responsibility that they are reneging upon,” she said.