‘Disturbing’ increase in sexual violence

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says social media being used as a form of abuse

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly and Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O’Malley Dunlop at the launch of the DRCC’s 2013 annual report. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly and Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O’Malley Dunlop at the launch of the DRCC’s 2013 annual report. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 22:06

Increasing levels of violence are accompanying rape, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said, and “particularly concerning” was the way social media is being used to film and distribute some assaults.

Angela McCarthy, DRCC’s head of clinical services, speaking at the publication of the centre’s annual report yesterday, said there had been a “disturbing increase in sexual violence” reported last year.

She said 27 per cent of all incidents of adult rape or sexual assault disclosed in therapy sessions included additional violence, predominantly physical abuse, psychological abuse and harassment or intimidation.

Some 21 per cent of all incidents of childhood sexual abuse were accompanied by additional violence, mainly psychological and physical abuse.

“Experienced therapists and counsellors have been very shocked at some of the violence. Age seems to be an issue, with younger people being raped by gangs while others are watching and sometimes filming the assaults.”

Social media was increasingly being used as a second form of abuse, with victims further violated by having a video of the ordeal distributed and potentially witnessed by people who were not present.

“What makes it worse is that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It is particularly concerning.”

Study needed

It underlined the need for a thorough study of the prevalence and type of sexual violence in Ireland in 2014, along the lines of the landmark Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (Savi) report published in 2002, she said.

The call for “a second Savi” was repeated by chief executive Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, who said helpline staff last year processed the highest number of calls since 2009. There were 3,928 first-time callers and the number of repeat contacts was 4,955 – the highest since 2004 and a 7 per cent increase on 2012. Some 78 per cent were from females and 22 per cent from males.

Child sexual abuse

Some 44 per cent of calls related to child sexual abuse and 42 per cent to adult rape. Nine per cent related to adult sexual assault – representing an increase of 21 per cent on the previous year, 2 per cent to ritual abuse, 0.9 per cent to sexual harassment, 0.5 per cent to suspected abuse, 0.3 per cent to trafficking, and, 0.1 per cent to under-13 sexualised behaviour.

The busiest month last year was January, when there were 477 calls and the busiest hour on average was between 11am and noon, with more than 800 calls during this hour last year.

Some 72 per cent of calls came from Dublin and 28 per cent from 12 other counties. Callers were most likely to be aged 30 to 39 (25 per cent of callers), followed by 40 to 49 years (23 per cent) and then 24 to 29 years (15.4 per cent).

Some 4,160 individual counselling sessions were made available and 3,211 (77 per cent) were taken up. There were some “no-shows” and cancellations. There were 512 individual clients for counselling last year, of which 284 (56 per cent) were new.

James Reilly

The report was published yesterday by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly. His department has, since January, been responsible for funding sexual and domestic violence services.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop appealed to him to restore funding to the DRCC which has seen an almost 30 per cent cut since 2008. She said DRCC had to make three people – including two therapists – voluntarily redundant this year just as services were in greater demand than ever.

Pointing to a recent Economic and Social Research Institute study which set out the long-term costs of childhood sexual abuse both to the victims and society, she said: “Many studies around the world tell us that when the emotional and psychological needs are met their physical and overall wellbeing improves which impacts positively on the health and economic wellbeing of that society.”

Mr Reilly said: “I will very happily be an advocate for your service.”

He added that DRCCC was doing “phenomenal work”.

nNational Rape Crisis Helpline: 1 800 77 8888