The Donegal Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre is continuing to experience an increase in demand with more than 60 per cent of clients last year having suffered sexual abuse as a child.
The centre says last year was one of its busiest in recent times with increases in demand experienced after the publication of the Catholic church’s report into clerical sexual abuse in the Raphoe dioceses and the media attention around the conviction of child sex abuser Michael Ferry.
In both cases the centre responded to an increase in demand by providing a 24-hour service.
The centre’s annual report states there was a 21 per cent increase in demand for support and counselling last year compared to 2010.
Of the new clients in 2011, 7.5 per cent were male, which is half the national figure.
The first three months of this year have already seen a month by month increase compared to last year.
The increased activity experienced by the centre in recent years is partly due to the opening of Sexual Abuse Treatment Unit at Letterkenny General Hospital two years ago. Call-outs to the centre increased by 120 per cent in 2011. The centre provides voluntary support to victims who use the unit.
The centre had 183 clients last year with 131 new clients, 28 clients who were providing support to a victim and 25 clients who continued counselling from 2010.
The centre has seen its budget cut by 3.6 per cent this year and last year had a funding shortfall of almost €4,000. The provision of the service is increasingly dependent on fundraising.
Director of the centre, Sara Donovan, said media coverage of clerical abuse and high profile cases in the county does increase demand on the service. “It does have an impact on the service and we would have seen an increase in the number of clients coming forward,” she said. “Last year was an extremely busy year and some of it, not all of it, could be attributed to what was going on in the media and that raised the awareness of the service. The attention gave people the courage to come and access the service.”
She said the centre could not survive without the help of volunteers. “They are the backbone of the service, that is the reality and that would be the case in all rape crisis centres. Our board is voluntary and I have to thank them as well as all the volunteers, everyone who raised money and everyone who gave funding.”