The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions last year resulted in “a rise in new cases of rape and assault” as people returned to colleges, workplaces and socialising, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said.
The organisation’s annual report stated that its counsellors took many calls at this time from young people who described having been being raped but were “struggling” to understand what had happened to them.
It described numerous impacts of pandemic restrictions, including people being left without their usual supports, with more time at home to remember and relive old traumas and calling helplines for the first time.
More than half of the 14,000 calls to the national helpline last year were from first-time contacts, with the largest proportion (20 per cent) from people aged 50-59. The next largest was the 18-23 age group (17.6 per cent). Of the calls received, some 7,900 were first-time contacts.
“Most contacts related to rape (43.5 per cent) followed by child sexual abuse (30 per cent) and adult sexual assault (13.4 per cent). Sexual harassment was cited by 1.1 per cent of callers,” said the report.
Some 81 per cent of calls were from women, with 18.7 per cent from men and 0.3 per cent identifying as other.
The centre said about one-third of those who called were seeking support “in relation to abuse they had experienced in childhood, as restrictions on movement due to the pandemic and more time spent at home brought trauma to the surface for them”.
Contacts were “longer and more complex” with callers needing more assurances and support, it added.
“A further trend was for new contacts from older callers with past trauma who had been managing it independently for many years but were left without their usual outlets and support due to restrictions, and needed to reach out,” it said.
As restrictions lifted, the centre said, “we noted a rise in new cases of rape and assault as people returned to colleges and workplaces as well as social outlets”.
“Telephone counsellors noted calls relating to consent, with callers asking for help to understand their experience and their subsequent distress. In most cases, this involved assault or rape, with younger callers in particular struggling to identify this issue,” it said.
“Coercive control was another emerging theme, again with callers describing their experiences and asking for help to understand what their experience might actually be. In many cases, these calls were in fact about very abusive situations.”
The national freephone rape crisis helpline can be contacted on 1800 77 8888