Removal of rape support funding defended

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has defended the decision to cease funding the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, saying areas had been identified where the money could be used better.

Removal of rape support funding defended

In a statement on the decision taken by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, Minister James Reilly said he had requested that the agency give particular priority to protecting frontline services.

The Rape Crisis Network (RCNI) provides support services to 11 of the country’s 16 local rape crisis centres that provide frontline services, and co-ordinates training, governance, research and lobbying on their behalf.

“I am pleased to confirm that funding for frontline services provided to survivors of sexual violence — via the rape crisis centres — has been protected in 2015,” said Mr Reilly.

However, the RCNI repeated its plea for the decision on its own funding to be reversed, saying that, without the €250,000 it received annually, it will have to shut down with the loss of 30 years of experience and expertise from the sector.

It made a particular plea for the preservation and continuation of the network’s database, which has been gathering statistics from the individual rape crisis centres and monitoring trends from the personal stories of survivors of sexual violence for 10 years, making it the most comprehensive source of such information in the country.

“Our data collection system is a model of excellence and considered to be of the highest standards across Europe and indeed the world,” said RCNI chairwoman Anne Scully, who described the withdrawal of funding as “deeply regressive”.

Elaine Mears, RCNI data and services information manager, said the data allowed survivors’ stories to be properly recognised and for their experiences to inform future policy.

“I feel great injustice for the thousands of survivors who are attending rape crisis centres currently who are being silenced by this Government decision,” she said.

The RCNI yesterday published its statistical report for 2014 which showed that 63% of the people who attended rape crisis centres had suffered childhood sexual violence and, on average, waited 26 years before seeking help.

A further 30% had suffered sexual violence as adults. For 7%, the violence happened both in childhood and adulthood. Some 85% of survivors were female and 96% of perpetrators were male.

Almost a quarter (23%) of incidents of sexual violence against children under the age of 13 was perpetrated by another child under the age of 18 as were 17% of incidents against children aged 13-17.

The majority (64%) did not report what happened to them to the gardaí but, of those who did, the majority (67%) felt they were treated sensitively, while 11% said their treatment was insensitive, and 23% felt the response was neutral.

Mr Reilly and Tusla both said the agency would establish its own data collection system but the RCNI has criticised the decision to abandon its system when a replacement has not yet been put in place. It has also questioned the independence of such a system given that it will be State-run.

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