The demand for sexual services persisted last year despite the pandemic, according to Ruhama.
In its annual report, published on Wednesday, the organisation that fights sexual exploitation, prostitution, and human trafficking said it worked with more women in 2021 than the previous year.
The agency says it helped 369 women over the year, an increase of 21.5% compared to 2020.
Of that number, some 136 women were victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
“Ruhama was deemed an essential service in 2020,” said chief executive Barbara Condon.
“That pushed our staff to adapt swiftly to ensure continuity of service provision and they did...
“Thanks to their resilience and commitment, service provision remained constant and even expanded during this uniquely challenging time.”
The report includes direct accounts of being trafficked to Ireland by women with whom Ruhama works.
One Romanian service user described how the man who controls her every day keeps her compliant.
“If I do anything wrong, he threatens to beat me,” she said. “Even worse, he says that he will tell his mother — in whose care I left my daughter — to bring my daughter to the orphanage and leave her there, that she would be better off without me, that I am a bad mother. That terrifies me. So I am still here.”
The ongoing development and expansion of Ruhama’s counselling and trauma therapy service was a key strategic priority for 2021.
Some 69 service users accessed this service, up 68% from 2020, and they reported a drop in anxiety and depression, and a reduction in the risk of suicide.
A total of 205 service users participated with the organisation’s education and development team, an increase of 15% from the previous year.
The ‘bridge to work’ programme supported 40 women last year with job coaching, assistance in starting employment, and supporting women to maintain employment.
Launching the Ruhama’s annual report in its new premises on Castle St, Dublin 2, Helen McEntee, the justice minister, said: “Ruhama’s annual report shows that despite public health restrictions, vulnerable women continued to find themselves in danger due to sexual exploitation and prostitution.”