Demand for sexual abuse and rape service jumps

The number of people seeking help from the Donegal Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre has increased by almost 150 per cent in the last two years.

The number of people seeking help from the Donegal Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre has increased by almost 150 per cent in the last two years.

There was a 60 per cent increase in people attending the centre between 2010 and 2009. In its annual report for 2010 the centre said the number of counselling sessions has increased from 436 in 2008 to 1,084 last year.

The number of men attending the centre is also on the increase and last year represented 22 per cent of the 131 clients who attended the centre.

Two thirds of those who attend the service do not report the crimes to the gardai and those attending the centre are almost equally divided between victims of rape and sexual abuse.

The number of calls received by the centre increased from 2,272 in 2009 to 2,535 last year. The annual report says demand has increased by 146.8 per cent.

Over a third of the clients are aged between 17 and 30, 32 per cent are between 31 and 40, 19 per cent are between 41 and 50 and 11.5 per cent are over 50.

The centre has had to increase it services to meet the demands but at the same time has had to deal with a 6 per cent cut in its funding from the Health Service Executive.

Eight volunteers have been trained by the centre to help deal with the increased workload.

Manager of the centre, Sara Donovan, said it is not clear whether the increase in people using the centre is due to a rise of the incidence of sexual crime or a greater willingness to report.

The publishing of reports on clerical abuse may have given victims more confidence in coming forward, she said.

The improvement in services available has also helped encourage people to report sexual crimes.

So far in 20011 the number of people using the service has showed no signs of dropping off.

“Last year our number peaked in March and peaked in July and in March 2011 we have actually had more clients,” she said. “So in the first two months of this year there is no sign of a decrease in demand for the service.”

In the new financial climate the increased demand for the service does not mean an increase in funding and the centre is increasingly relying on fund-raising to provide training to extend the service and maintain existing services.

“That is putting pressure on the staff we have. We now have a group of volunteers who are trained to provide all the support services and they really do a lot of work,” she said.

There has been an increase in the number of people reporting offences and going to court but the aim of the service is to provide support for whatever the victim chooses to do. “The client will always decide what they want to do. The service is very-much clent-lead and it is about helping the client on the road to their recovery. We support them in whatever their needs. We will help through making a statement and the whole way through the court system.”