The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s incoming chief executive, Noeline Blackwell, said there was a resurgence in calls last year relating to sexual abuse.
“Some of the people who are disclosing childhood sexual abuse have never been able to talk about it and have gone through their lives with that burden,” she said.
The DRCC wants the Dáil to implement the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill when it returns in the autumn.
The legislation, given priority status when reintroduced by the Government, is aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation, child pornography, and online grooming.
“The fact that about half of the counselling and therapeutic work of the centre is with adults who have suffered abuse as children makes our call for better protection for today’s children even more urgent,” said Ms Blackwell.
“The Sexual Offences Bill that tackles internet abuse, which is still not illegal in Ireland, will give today’s children a much better chance of staying safe than they have right now.”
At the launch of the DRCC’s 2015 annual report today, head of clinical services Angela McCarthy will give an overview of the centre’s therapy and counselling work.
“Compared with 2014, 2015 saw a resurgence in calls relating to childhood sexual abuse, with a small decrease in calls relating to adult sexual violence,” said Ms McCarthy.
“We have seen an increase in adults in midlife looking for therapy for childhood sexual abuse, often after many years of suffering and silence.”
In 21% of all incidents of childhood sexual abuse, additional violence was disclosed, predominately psychological abuse, harassment, or intimidation and physical abuse.
Ms McCarthy said a 16% increase in the number of people contacting the national 24-hour helpline for the first time last year had resulted in growing pressure for face-to-face therapy, to a point where demand exceeded available resources.
Figures released by the DRCC show that last year, almost 12,000 people contacted the organisation’s national helpline and over half were calling it for the first time about rape or sexual abuse.
Ms Blackwell said while the number of calls made to the helpline last year had been similar to 2014, they were becoming more complex.
Volunteers staffing the helpline, particularly at night and during the weekend, had noticed a sense of hopelessness, with callers also struggling to access housing and other services.
Just over half of calls were about adult sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, with the remainder (49%) relating to childhood sexual abuse, including ritual abuse.
Most callers (95%) were Irish, and the remainder represented 57 other nationalities.
In 24% of all incidents of adult rape or sexual assault, there was additional violence, predominantly physical abuse, psychological abuse, and harassment or intimidation.
Among the 318 cases where the reporting status was known, 113 were reported to gardaí, a reporting rate of 36%.
More than a third related to childhood sexual abuse.