Rise in number of calls to rape crisis helpline

Rise in number of calls to rape crisis helpline

DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell said that the invitation to Minister Foley highlighted the DRCC’s long-standing concerns about the lack of adequate accessible sexual health and relationships education for our children and young people. Picture: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

Calls for help following sexual violence to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) national helpline rose to 14,012 in 2021 — up from 13,438 the previous year.

The figures are contained in the DRCC’s 2021 annual report, which will be launched by Minister for Education Norma Foley TD in Dublin.

Most calls to the national helpline last year were first-time contacts (7,900), with 3,711 in touch for a second or subsequent time, and a further 2,401 undisclosed. The report also states:

  • Some 81% of contacts were female, 18.7% male and 0.3% identified as other.
  • More than half of contacts were Dublin-based (57.7%) with 42.3% coming from elsewhere in Ireland.
  • Most people contacting the line were Irish (96.1%).
  • The age of contacts ranged from under 16 to over 70. The largest cohort was 50-59 year-olds (20.8% of contacts), followed by 18-23 year-olds (17.6%).
  • The DRCC also took an increase of therapy clients last year, rising to 580 clients from 570 in 2020.

Therapy findings

Of the 289 new therapy clients, many had also suffered other types of violence. For those subjected to sexual violence as adults, 31.1% also reported physical abuse, 31.1% reported psychological abuse, and 26% reported harassment and intimidation. 

Some 5% of this cohort had received threats to kill, and 3.4% had actual attempts made on their lives. Some 1.7% had been trafficked and a further 1.7% had experienced stalking.

For those who had been abused as children, 44% reported being abused psychologically, and 42% had been harassed or intimated, with 8% being abused physically. Neglect, threat to kill, and trafficking was reported by 2% of clients in this category.

The majority of new clients in 2021 knew the person who raped or assaulted them — 79.7% of those reporting abuse as adults, and 90% of those abused as children.

Some 39% of these new clients had reported the crimes against them to gardaí.

The DRCC supported 115 survivors and 56 of their family and friends at a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, an increase on 85 survivors and 47 supporters in 2020.

In 2021 DRCC supported 210 victims in Garda stations and other such settings, almost double the 106 people supported in 2020. 

Raising awareness

a national project to raise awareness of consent, with campaign work including ground-breaking research on attitudes and understanding of sexual consent in Ireland, revealed that 70% believe Ireland has a problem with consent. An overwhelming 84% said we need age-appropriate sex education in all schools.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Minister Foley said: “I commend the staff and volunteers of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for the powerful and vital work which they engage in every day to support all those affected by sexual violence. 

"There can be no tolerance in our society for sexual or gender-based violence. As Minister for Education, I am deeply conscious of the responsibility and role of the education sector in combatting all forms of sexual violence. Relationships and Sexuality education is key in this regard, and progressing the reform of the RSE/SPHE curriculum has been a key priority for me as Minister."

DRCC chairperson Ann Marie Gill said in a challenging year, DRCC made significant progress on developing its work to prevent the harm of sexual violence, which included building a long-term project on consent. 

“Part of this new consent campaign was ground-breaking research on Irish people’s attitudes to and practice of consent. The findings including that 70% of Irish people believe we have a problem with consent, tell us that we need a sea change in attitudes and behaviours on consent.

"And thus, DRCC was pleased to see the wide focus of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence published this year.” 

DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell said that the invitation to Minister Foley highlighted the DRCC’s long-standing concerns about the lack of adequate accessible sexual health and relationships education for our children and young people. 

“This is why we will be contributing to the NCCA’s current review on the adoption of a new positive SPHE programme for Junior Cycle, and why we urge others to do the same before the consultation closes in mid-October.,” she said. 

“As our report shows, our staff and volunteers saw a significant increase in both the intensity of support and the numbers needing help... While we will always need these services, a better education system and a better recognition of the centrality of consent will at the very least help to ensure that some people are never harmed in the first place.” 

 DRCC's free 24-Hour National Helpline is at: 1800 778888.

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