Calls surge triggered by abuse reports

A SURGE of 45% in first-time callers to rape crisis support services last year was triggered by the release of two damning abuse reports.

Releasing its annual report yesterday, the Dublin Rape Crises Centre warned of a rise in child sex abuse reports and called for increased resources for victims to help limit the number of would-be rapists in society.

Marking the centre’s 30th year, chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop said that services for victims had never been in such demand as they were today.

“While the Dublin Rape Crises Centre had heard a lot of these stories over its 30 years in service,the public acknowledgement and belief in what was contained in these reports,enabled large numbers of victims, for the first time, to feel vindicated and tocome forward and speak out,” she said.

“The harrowing, first- time calls from victims who had never spoken to another [about the abuse] in some cases for 60 years was truly heartbreaking,” she said.

Up to 14,289 calls were received on the service’s 24-hour helpline, with 4,188 calls from victims contacting support services for the first time.

The increased volume of calls came in the wake of last year’s Ryan and Murphy reports into institutional and clerical abuse. Overall, 53% of calls related to childhood sexual abuse, an increase of 8% on 2008’s figures.

The centre also helped 579 clients in counselling and psychotherapy services, 88% of whom were women. Half of those who received therapy were victims of sexual violence in adulthood, including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and drug rape.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop called for the prompt implementation of the Ryan report’s recommendations, as well as the increased protection of children through a referendum and more resources for support services in the criminal justice system.

“We need to be confident that our judicial system from reporting to the gardaí to obtain a decision in court whether that be a conviction or an acquittal is effective, robust and above all fair to both the accused and the complainant.

“We have some way to go to achieving this,” she said.

Research found only 29% of victims in touch with services reported cases of rape or sexual abuse to gardaí. Victims were seven times more likely to report to gardaí if the alleged crime had been committed more recently, the research found.

Launching the report, Health Minister Mary Harney pledged to push for the continued €1.1 million in annual funds for the centre.

She said it was hoped there would be a second SAVI report, research that a decade ago set out the extent of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.

The Government was also finalising a date for the constitutional referendum on children’s rights, she added.

Ms Harney praised the women who worked over three decades at the centre. She said the report showed sexual violence still plagued society.

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