One in 10 people attending sex assault treatment units were victims of multiple attackers

One in 10 people attending a sex assault treatment unit were the victims of multiple attackers, a statistic described as "shocking and horrific" by Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
One in 10 people attending sex assault treatment units were victims of multiple attackers
Almost two-thirds of perpetrators of rape and sex assault against people who later attended a SATU last year were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance. Picture: istock
Almost two-thirds of perpetrators of rape and sex assault against people who later attended a SATU last year were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance. Picture: istock

One in 10 people attending a sex assault treatment unit were the victims of multiple attackers, a statistic described as "shocking and horrific" by Rape Crisis Network Ireland.

Furthermore, almost two-thirds of perpetrators of rape and sex assault against people who later attended a SATU last year were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance’.

The National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Services 2019 annual report shows that almost 1,000 people attended the six units around the country, including 15 people aged 14 or under.

The units - located in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Mullingar, Galway and Letterkenny - provided care for 943 people who disclosed rape or sexual assault, with another 20 people cared for in the out-of-hours service at University Hospital Limerick. It represents a very slight increase on the overall figure for 2018, but is also the fifth consecutive annual rise in SATU presentations.

The biggest number of presentations, 393, were at the Rotunda Hospital SATU, with the second-highest - 144 - at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork. According to the report, almost a quarter of incidents last year place in Dublin.

It also found: "62% of 1084 perpetrators were described as ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance’, 17% as ‘friend’ or ‘family member’ while 9% were described as an intimate (or ex-intimate) partner."

As for the 10% of patients who said there had been multiple assailants, RCNI Executive Director Clíona Saidléar said: "That is shocking, that is horrific."

The annual report found 180 patients were aged under 18, including 15 aged under 14 and 73 aged between 14 and 16, while 371 attendees were aged between 18 and 25. Overall, more than one-third were at school or college. There were seven patients aged over 70.

While 68% patients reported the incident to An Garda Síochána, and 63% of cases were referred to a SATU by gardaí, 101 patients opted to securely store their forensic evidence in a SATU to give them an option to report the incident and have this forensic evidence released at a later stage. Ms Saidléar said this was "a very strong figure".

The report also found that:

*92% of patients were seen by a Forensic Clinical Examiner within three hours of a request for Forensic Clinical Examination

*July was the busiest month for presentations and Monday the busiest day of the week while the majority of patients were seen between 8am and 8pm - but 30% attended at night which "underpins the importance for round-the-clock service"

*78% of patients reported sexual assaults within seven days of the incident while 14% were unsure if a sexual assault had occurred

*Two-thirds of assaults occurred indoors with 21% in the assailant’s home and 21% in the patient’s home

*7% of all attendees were male.

Almost two-thirds of perpetrators of rape and sex assault against people who later attended a SATU last year were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance. Picture: istock
Almost two-thirds of perpetrators of rape and sex assault against people who later attended a SATU last year were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance. Picture: istock

Earlier this year the national director of Ireland’s sexual assault treatment units, Dr Maeve Eogan, said the lockdown restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 had dispelled myths around rape, with presentations to units continuing despite pubs, clubs and other social spaces being closed.

The annual report shows that 26% of patients had not drank alcohol at all in the 24 hours prior to being assaulted while 21% had consumed fewer than six drinks over the same period. It showed 73% of patients had not taken any drugs, while "16% [overall] were concerned that drugs (including alcohol) had been used to facilitate sexual assault."

Ms Saidléar said there may be presentations at SATUs related to house parties during lockdown, and added there needed to be a strong message to perpetrators that "this is not a space where there is impunity".

The SATU report also showed the Mullingar unit saw patients from 16 different counties and that more than 8,000 people had accessed SATU care in the decade from 2009.

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