Sex attack reported almost every day

MORE than 200 women attended Ireland’s main sex assault treatment unit in the first eight months of this year — meaning an attack was reported almost every day during the period.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show that sexual crime is on the rise, with a surge in attacks recorded by the Rotunda Hospital’s sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) between January and August.

According to the figures, detailed by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC), during the 243-day period a total of 209 women attended the unit claiming they were raped.

The figure is 31 cases higher than the same period in 2008, despite the expectation that the opening of two more sexual assault units in Galway and Mullingar earlier this year would lead to a dip in those attending the Rotunda.

“This is a grave concern because what it shows is the number of women attending has increased even though there are two new units open,” warned DRCC chief executive, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop.

“Anyone who has been assaulted should attend the units, but it is a concern that there’s been a rise,” she added.

According to the DRCC, August was one of the worst months for assaults against women, with 27 cases being recorded at the Rotunda in the first 27 days of the month.

Between June and the end of August alone, the service provided care to 84 people who were assaulted — 12% higher than the same period in 2008.

While the final 2009 figures are not expected to be released until early next year, it is expected that the number of women attending the Rotunda for medical help after a rape could reach one a day by the end of the year.

News of the worrying figure emerged after a detailed four-year study commissioned by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland group found alcohol is a factor in the vast majority of assaults.

The major project said that two-thirds of victims who went before the courts had been binge drinking when they were attacked, and that this was a contributory factor in the low conviction rate for the offence.

In addition, the report was also highly critical of the attitude of gardaí to women who have been raped, in particular those who had been drinking before the attack occurred.

* Dublin Rape Crisis Centre helpline: 1800778888, rcc@indigo.ie

* Sexual Violence Centre Cork helpline: 1800496496, info@sexualviolence.ie

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