Increasing number of sexual violence survivors reporting to gardaí — Rape Crisis Centre CEO

Increasing number of sexual violence survivors reporting to gardaí — Rape Crisis Centre CEO

DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell said while there had been a 'Covid impact' on both DRCC's services and those using them, the number of people accessing its service for reports to An Garda Síochána had increased.

Just one third of those attending counselling and therapy with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) had told gardaí about the crimes committed against them. However, the organisation said more survivors are now coming forward and it expects further prosecutions will follow.

The figure is contained in the latest annual report from the DRCC, which shows there were 13,438 contacts to its national helpline last year.

The DRCC assisted 570 counselling and therapy clients last year and, of the 268 cases where the reporting status was known, just 96 cases were reported to the gardaí — a reporting rate of just 36%. More than 56% of those cases involved a recent rape.

Outcome information was known for 50 of those 96 cases reported, showing that just two had gone to trial, with five dropped by the DPP or client, and 43 still under investigation. Of the two cases that were tried, there was a conviction or guilty plea in both cases.

However, DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell said that, while there had also been a 'Covid impact' — both on the DRCC's services, and on those using them — the number of people accessing its support service for reports to An Garda Síochána had increased.

More survivors are contacting gardaí

She said it was another indication that more women — often after addressing their emotional and psychological needs — were contacting gardaí, and reflected increased efforts by government and state agencies to bring perpetrators to justice.

"There is definitely a sense of people upset and traumatised who need to get themselves in order to move forward," Ms Blackwell said, describing the publication of the O'Malley report last year, and the setting up of an implementation group to act on its recommendations as a "significant step forward".

Ms Blackwell said this, alongside the expansion of special units within the gardaí, meant the prospect of more prosecutions.

The very fact that we can say there are specialist units within the justice system, particularly in the gardaí, where people will get their story told and tell their account in a way where they don't feel traumatised by the end of it, that is a big step forward. 

"Every [garda] division did not have such a unit until the middle of 2020. Training and consistency across the gardaí remains an issue, but we have an increasing confidence in the good intentions of the investigation and prosecution services of the state in bringing people who perpetrate this violence forward and in holding them to account."

DRCC contacts ranged from under 16 to over 70

As for the 13,438 contacts to the DRCC helpline, most were first-time contacts (6,451) with 5,349 in touch for a second or subsequent time, and they ranged in age from under 16 to over 70. Around half were seeking counselling and support and more than one-third came from outside the capital.

Of the 60% of contacts who disclosed abuse, half said they had been raped as an adult and more than a quarter revealed child sexual abuse, while 5% had been abused both as a child and as an adult. One in 10 calls were referred on to gardaí, the Garda National Protective Services Unit (GNPSU), and the Garda Victim Service Offices (GVSO), while DRCC’s trained volunteers carried out 64 days of court or garda station accompaniment with 39 victims of sexual violence or abuse and 111 victims were supported by phone, text, and email.

Survivors who 'deferred their needs' in lockdown

The report shows the number of people contacting the helpline was lower than usual at the peak of public health restrictions, and some callers said they had to "defer their own needs" because of the pandemic.

"Fewer client cases were closed in 2020 than in previous years as clients dealt with all the additional anxieties and upsets of Covid-19 and restrictions, as well as the injuries visited on them by sexual violence," the report stated.

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