Campaigners: Fewer rape victims coming forward

The number of rapes declined in 2007 but campaigners say less victims are coming forward for help.

The number of rapes declined in 2007 but campaigners say less victims are coming forward for help.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s annual report found that 320 victims of rape or sexual assault had been seen in the capital’s Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU).

The Centre’s 24-hour helpline dealt with 13,582 calls in 2007 of which 3,893 were repeat calls.

Men now account for 17% of calls to the helpline.

“Our statistics show that sexual crime is not diminishing,” said DRCC chairman Brendan Spring.

“These statistics are not to be confused with statements from the gardaí and the Central Statistics Office. Fewer victims are reporting rape and sexual abuse to the gardaí, which distorts the real picture. This report shows the true story.”

A third of people who asked the DRCC for help said they had suffered physical violence, psychological abuse and intimidation in addition to the rape or sexual assault.

DRCC chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop said: “Over the past number of years we observed a growing trend in the levels of violence accompanying rapes and sexual assaults. In 2007 we documented the evidence which supports these observations.”

More than half of the calls to the helpline related to adult rape and sexual assault while just over 47% pertained to childhood sexual abuse – 5% more than in 2006.

A total of 77% of calls were from the Dublin and Greater Dublin area while 23% were from areas outside Dublin

Some 5.5% of callers were foreign-nationals from countries such as Britain, Europe and Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the figures “reflect a frightful reality of our society that one of the most serious crimes on our statute books continues to be committed, continues to go unreported, and continues to be ignored.”

She added: “The result is that perpetrators do not fear the law, and victims fear that they will not get justice if they do report the crime.”

The DRCC said Ireland has the lowest reporting rate when compared with 20 European countries.

“One of the obvious reasons is that a victim of this heinous crime is only a witness in the case, with no separate legal representation. This must change. The prosecution represents the state and the accused has a legal team. The victim has nobody.

The DRCC also claims the 2006 Sexual Offences Act is inadequate.

“As well as legislative changes, we need a Referendum to amend the Constitution to reinstate strict liability in the case of rape, so that our young people are protected.

“The disturbing trends in our society reflected in this report have to be addressed and need to be prioritised by our politicians,” Ms O’Malley-Dunlop added.

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