The Justice minister promised to "urgently" prioritise fighting sexual violence in Ireland by progressing new legislation as early as this month as she launched the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's annual report.
The report revealed spiralling levels of demand for its services with 14,159 calls to its national helpline last year; a 42% increase in people seeking accompaniment to specialist Sexual Assault Treatment Units following attacks and a 118% increase in people requesting support through the justice system.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that she intends to bring a comprehensive implementation plan for the recently published O'Malley Review — which recommended changes to the criminal justice system to better protect victims of sexual crimes — to Government by the end of October.
And this month, she intends to bring the legislation to tackle harassment and harmful communications, including the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, also known as revenge porn to Government.
"As a new minister and indeed as a young woman, I’m determined to use this office— the Department of Justice — to drive for real and substantial change in relation to sexual violence," she said.
Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the DRCC, welcomed the minister’s commitment to implement the recent O’Malley Review, saying that although it would not erase all the problems in the way our criminal justice system addresses sexual crime, it would certainly improve it.
“We need our leaders to understand that sexual violence is a problem that remains endemic in our society," Ms Blackwell said.
"It needs vigilance and it needs system change."
Among the O’Malley Review recommendations highlighted by Minister McEntee in her speech were a proposal to provide a single portal with wide-ranging information.
She also said that the July stimulus package had included provision to complete the roll-out of Protective Services Units in each of the country’s 28 Garda divisions.
She said that 21 were in place and that she had been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the remainder would be in place by the end of September 2020.
Ms Blackwell said that developing new ways to connect with people impacted by sexual crimes has been a priority, the importance of which was further highlighted by the pandemic, and new online and webchat services have been launched to address this.
"Home is not a safe place for so many people," Ms Balckwell said, saying that even in these uncertain times "we will do our level best to reach everyone who needs our help".
Call the DRCC's National 24-hour Helpline on 1800 77 88 88 .
To donate, go to https://www.drcc.ie/donate/