Calls to helpline split between child abuse and adult rape victims

CRIES for help received by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year were equally divided between childhood sexual abuse and adult rape.

Of the 12,741 calls received in 2008 by the centre’s 24-hour helpline, 45% related to childhood sexual abuse and 45% to adult rape. Just over 7% related to adult sexual assault.

Five years ago, the rape crisis centre was dealing with almost twice as many victims of adult violence as childhood abuse.

Its chief executive, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, said the centre operated the only 24-hour helpline for victims of rape and sexual abuse in the country and needed 75 volunteers at any one time to make sure there was a person at the end of the line.

But, she said, no one could have predicted the number of people needing support following the publication of the Ryan Commission report on institutional child abuse in May.

“The helpline experienced an increase in calls the like of which we have never, ever seen before, even following the Ferns Report,” she said.

“I have seen very seasoned telephone counsellors in this centre being absolutely wiped out and terribly upset at what they were hearing after the Ryan Report. I have never seen such upset.

“Prevention of abuse and promotion of child protection must be a primary goal and while we work to identify and support those who have been abused, we need to make sure that the resources are adequate and I am not sure they are at the moment.”

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said they had been forewarned about the further atrocities uncovered in the report into child sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese expected to be published in the early autumn.

“Our services will again be in great demand and we need emergency funding in order to be able to deliver the services that the people who call our helpline so badly need.”

While they were very grateful for support that the Health Service Executive gave them through their annual grant, they experienced a 2.5% cut in that grant this year on top of a freeze over the last three years.

Up to last year, because of support received from its benefactors, the centre has been able to make up a funding deficit but this was no longer possible in the current economic climate.

The centre has written to three Government ministers, including Health Minister Mary Harney, asking them to make emergency funding available so it can continue to respond to the needs of people who contact it.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop also stressed the need for more research on child sexual abuse in order to respond to the crime more appropriately.

She said the SAVI (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) Report, published in 2002, revealed that childhood sexual abuse was more prevalent than was thought but updated research was needed so a comparison of data could be made.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the report’s author, Prof Hannah McGee, was available to do the research but the Government had to commit to funding it.

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