Calls to rape crisis helpline up 18%

Wed, Sep 5, 2012, 01:00

The number of first-time callers to a national rape-crisis helpline increased by almost 20 per cent last year compared with 2010, new figures indicate.

The figures, contained in the annual report and statistics from the the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre published today, also show an increase in violence accompanying incidents of rape and sexual assault.

Almost one third of all cases of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse disclosed to DRCC counsellors last year included other types of violence, including physical violence, psychological abuse and threats to kill.

There were 11,839 counselling contacts to the centre last year, of which 3,988 were from people who were contacting for help for the first time. This compared with 3,282 in 2010, an 18 per cent rise.

There has also been a steady year-on-year increase in the number of people seeking counselling for childhood sexual abuse, by 20 per cent since 2003.

Dr Frances Gardiner, chairwoman of the centre, described the statistics in the report as “truly shocking”, while chief executive Ellen O’Malley Dunlop said easier access to pornography was among the reasons why “these heinous crimes” were “escalating”.

“We know from international research that the levels of violence escalate in societies during times of economic recession. We also know that the easy access to hard core pornography further fuels attitudes of objectification of both men and women and leads to unimaginable dehumanisation of both victims and perpetrators.”

She said hardcore pornography had a potentially “dangerous damaging effect on people’s health and lives...is addictive and can kill people’s souls". She called for "decisive action" in this area.

Some 537 clients were seen in the centre’s counselling and psychotherapy service, of which 88.3 per cent were female and 11.7 per cent were male. Some 91 of the centre’s counselling clients reported the crimes to the gardaí, 52 per cent of them relating to a recent rape cases, 16.5 per cent to past rapes, 27.5 per cent to past childhood abuse cases and three per cent to recent childhood abuse.

An emerging change found in the figures of people reporting to gardaí was the increasing proportion (66.6 per cent) who had been raped or sexually assaulted by someone they knew, compared with 33.4 per cent who had been assaulted by a stranger. In past reports clients were more likely to report to gardaí if they had been raped or assaulted by a stranger.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said it was welcome that more people were reporting the crimes and seeking help.

There was however a “big gap between reporting the crimes and cases getting to court”. She said once cases got to court the conviction rates were high. “We need more cases to get to court,” she said.

Many studies underlined how people are more likely to report sex crimes if they are being emotionally and psychologically supported.

Statistics for 2011 also showed:

* 18 women became pregnant by rape, with seven opting to keep the child, four had a termination, three fostered the baby, three suffered a miscarriage and one was stillborn.

* 271 victims were accompanied by DRCC’s trained volunteers to the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda hospital.

* Eight out of ten callers were women, almost 19 per cent men and 0.4 per cent - 36 people - transsexual/transgender.

* 52 per cent of calls related to adult sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and trafficking.

* 47 per cent had suffered childhood abuse.

* While 96 per cent of callers were Irish, the other 4 per cent came from 42 different nationalities

* 537 clients were seen for crisis counselling and psychotherapy, with more than half related to childhood sexual abuse.

* Of the 304 cases where the reporting status was known, just 30 per cent, 91 cases, were reported to gardaí, with two-thirds relating to adult rape or assault and a third childhood abuse. Of those, only seven cases were tried in court, resulting in four convictions or guilty pleas, and one acquittal. Two other outcomes are unknown.

The national 24-hour helpline is at 1800 77 88 88