Reverse this hugely symbolic cut - Rape service funding

OCCASIONALLY public policy decisions are made that suggest we have learnt little enough from the sordid experiences of our past and that our self image as a caring, protective society — a Christian or even a post-Christian one — might not be as accurate as we might wish.

Sometimes decisions are made that indicate that some officials live in a state of wishful denial about the world around them and the obligations it forces upon all of us.

Sometimes unavoidable decisions are made because resources are scare, but occasionally, decisions involving relatively moderate sums of money and that point to an unacceptable mindset are made, decisions that have an impact completely disproportionate to the resources involved.

The decision by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to end funding for the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) six weeks ago is one of those numbing, backward-looking cuts that must have been reached without properly thinking its implications through.

The cut seems regressive, dangerous and almost a tacit expression of misogyny. Its psychological impact is profound as is says to rape or abuse victims that this service, one they can turn to in a moment of great crisis, is not regarded as important much less essential.

Official Ireland would, of course, reject those charges but how else could a decision to end vital funding of around €250,000 — 70% of RCNI’s income — a year be described?

The sum is after all considerably less than what some of the country’s top farmers get each year in individual single farm payments and compared to the billions sucked up by zombie banks almost irrelevant. Indeed, it is hard to think that money is even the issue. It is harder, however, to imagine another country that regards itself as progressive and as a champion for women’s right implementing such a cut.

The RCNI is the umbrella body for the country’s 16 rape crisis centres and provides oversight, governance, training, research and legal support. It also runs educational campaigns and lobbies on behalf of individual rape crisis centres. The RCNI cut has led to concerns that the network of rape crisis centres might be rationalised. This fear is based on a 2011 report that concluded that we have twice the number of centres required under EU policy.

This society’s record in supporting victims of rape, abuse or crime is not enviable. We are neglectful and too often inclined to look the other way. It is not too long ago after all that a man accused of sexual assault was applauded in public while his victim was ostracised — precisely the kind of anti-woman behaviour we are so very energetic in condemning when it happens in other countries.

This funding is essential to the work of RCNI but it is even more important than that. It is symbolic of how this society regards rape, rape victims and the deep, life-wounding trauma it represents. It is hard to understand how these cuts were made in the first place but it will be even more difficult to understand if they are not immediately reversed. Surely €250,000 can be found in our €13bn-plus health budget?

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