The number of sexual assault victims to attend at Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) across the country during the Covid-19 lockdown reduced by 39% compared to the same period last year.
That is according to figures provided by the consultant medic leading the SATU Service in Ireland, Dr Maeve Eogan.
The SATU service provides clinical, forensic and supportive care for those who have experienced sexual violence. Dr Eogan provided figures on attendances at SATUs from March 12 to June 28 this year.
These figures show there were 167 attendances at SATUs in that period this year compared to 273 for the corresponding period last year.
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Eogan said, "This shows that sexual violence is not all related to colleges, clubs and pubs - which would often be a narrative used when sexual violence is being discussed – and a pandemic, with associated lockdown, has sadly not obliterated sexual violence in our country."
Dr Eogan said the lockdown figures emphasise that nightclubs and pubs "are only one piece of the jigsaw of sexual violence".
She said, "Even when they were closed, allegations of rape and sexual assault did not disappear and sexual violence continued to happen in other contexts.
It shows that it is a ‘whole of society’ phenomenon, and education to counter it cannot just focus on countering violence in pub and club culture."
The reduced numbers attending the country's six SATUs during lockdown contributed to provisional SATU attendances for the first six months of this year decreasing by 22.5% to 339 compared to 438 for the same period last year.
On the assailants in the cases during the lockdown period, Dr Eogan said approximately 20% of SATU attendees disclosed an incident perpetrated by an intimate partner, or ex-intimate partner or family member, compared with 13% for the same period in 2019.
She said, “It also appeared that incidents may have been more likely to occur in the patient's or the assailant’s home in the 2020 period, compared with the same period in 2019."
She said 96% of patients were seen within three hours of a request for forensic examination in the 2020 period, compared with 92% in the same period in 2019, highlighting that staffing and infrastructure remained available throughout the acute phase of the pandemic.
The recently published 2019 annual report of the National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Services showed that two of the six SATUs at the Rotunda in Dublin and Galway reported their busiest years to date. 2019 was the fifth consecutive year where the numbers attending SATUs increased.
As reported by the Irish Examiner last week, some 16% of those to attend SATUs were concerned that drugs, including alcohol, had been used to facilitate sexual assault.
Some 62% of perpetrators were described as ‘strangers’ or 'recent acquaintances’, with an additional 17% as ‘friend’ or ‘family member’ while 9% were described as an intimate or ex-intimate partner.
The report states that 13% were unsure if a sexual assault had occurred, and 10% of assaults were by multiple assailants.
Some 93% of those to attend SATU’s were female with 7% male.