Sexual violence survivors living in direct provision are facing serious barriers to accessing rape crisis support, which is completely remote at the moment, Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has warned.
With all access to rape crisis support being carried out remotely due to the pandemic, survivors often cannot speak privately with their counsellors where there is internet and phone poverty.
This is a particularly acute problem for asylum seekers and refugees living in direct provision, compounding already barely tolerable conditions, according to Clíona Saidléar, RCNI executive director.
“We are highly concerned for the wellbeing of these survivors,” Ms Saidléar said. “These vulnerable survivors often do not have their own phone but need to borrow one for phone calls.”
“They may only have access to phones that work on public WiFi, so struggle to make private calls. Our clients’ privacy is at risk every time we make a call,” she added.
These are all barriers from engaging fully or at all in much-needed specialist support. Some of the solutions are simple, such as a rape crisis centre being able to pay for phone credit for the survivor.
During the pandemic, Rape Crisis Centres are currently meeting clients' needs, and enabling access to specialist rape crisis support, whether paying for a taxi fare or phone credit, or putting together a care package. However, this expenditure is currently problematic under statutory funding, according to Ms Saidlear.
The RCNI has asked the Minister of Justice to allow for this discretionary spending to ensure access.