Cash boost to benefit victims of rape

FEMALE victims of rape and violence are to benefit from the Government’s first injection of money into support services since the last general election.

New sexual assault treatment units (SATU) will be built in the west and the midlands at a cost of €2.5 million.

A further €4.5m will be used to end a four-year funding freeze on domestic violence and rape crisis centres.

Money will also be made available to train 24 nurses, who will work with gardaí in rape cases.

Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland Fiona Neary said the money was welcome but the organisation had hoped funding for support services would amount to €7m in its own right.

“We have been looking for this for years. It has been a long, hard road. For the past three years, we got nothing, absolutely nothing. We are relatively happy but we want the rest of this funding next year.

“Sexual violence has been the forgotten issue for so long, definitely for most of the Government term, but it has taken the issue of the statutory rape crisis to bring this to the point where something is being done.”

The money for the two SATUs will go towards the implementation of the Sexual Assault and Treatment Unit Report, according to Health Minister Mary Harney.

“[That report] recommended two new units would be established, one in Tullamore and one in Galway. They will be established in 2007. We will also train 24 nurses in forensic testing to assist gardaí around the country, with the first intake of students in 2007.”

The additional €4.5m will be available to share among 60 rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and support services for victims of domestic violence throughout next year.

Director of the National Network of Women’s Refuges and Support Services Sharon O’Halloran said the money would be a big boost to a sector which had to endure significant cutbacks during the rest of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition.

The €4.5m was less than what the sector sought and whereas Women’s Aid policy and research manager Rachel Mullen was happy with the payment, she said it was still less than what was needed to meet last year’s demand.

“It is not really an increase in the amount of money on what we needed, it is really a response to what we needed last year. But at least it is something we can use to move on next year,” she said.

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