More than 10,000 contacts made to rape crisis helplines last year

Figures from Rape Crisis Network Ireland show number of contacts and appointments down but referrals to counselling at record high

More than 10,000 contacts were made to Rape Crisis Centre helplines last year, according to new figures from the organisation.

The number of contacts is down over 20 per cent compared to the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, almost 9 per cent compared to 2021 and almost 3 per cent compared to pre-pandemic 2019.

The number of appointments made last year fell from a pandemic-era high of 15,194 in 2020 to 13,298, according to statistics from Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).

However, the number of clients referred for counselling – 1,468 – is the highest recorded. There was a 13 per cent increase in people taking up counselling last year compared to 2019, and a 10 per cent increase in accompaniments to sexual assault treatment units, the 2022 RCNI statistics report says.


“We are now emerging from the patterns imposed upon our services by the constraints of the pandemic,” says the report. “Most of our services have returned to face-to-face appointments, and we have seen an overall reduction in the number of contacts from survivors which peaked during 2020 due to a number of factors linked to the pandemic.

“Waiting lists and waiting times for appointments continue to grow, and unfortunately RCCs have not been resourced to keep up with this demand. The ability to provide specialist sexual violence training to new staff is an area of huge concern for the sector.”

Some 80 per cent of contacts come from survivors of sexual violence, 92 per cent of whom are women. The vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence were males (97 per cent).

Some 4 per cent of women or girls who were raped became pregnant as a result. Half of these 34 women or girls went on to parent the baby, one-quarter had terminations and the remainder disclosed either adoption, fostering, miscarriage or stillbirths. These figures may refer to past pregnancies, not necessarily in 2022.

An area of concern highlighted in the report concerns patterns of disclosure. Those abused in early childhood wait much longer than other survivors before disclosing what happened, it says.

Those who are under the age of 13 when subjected to sexual violence often wait decades before they are ready to disclose what happened – 44 per cent wait longer than 10 years. Only 24 per cent of this age group disclose the abuse within a year of it happening. For those survivors aged between 13 and 17 at the time of abuse, fewer wait over a decade to tell someone (15 per cent) while 50 per cent disclose within a year.

Some 65 per cent of survivors who were adults at the time of the abuse disclosed what had happened within a year, while only 6 per cent waited decades to tell someone.

“What this tells us is that people who are adults now are carrying their trauma of sexual abuse as children for years – we need to find ways for them to be supported earlier as a matter of urgency,” said Dr Clíona Saidléar, executive director of RCNI. “These statistics provide a crucial analysis of patterns of sexual violence across the country. Knowing the patterns of sexual violence is the first step for us to take action to support survivors of sexual violence through our network of Rape Crisis Centres, and as a society as well.”

Earlier this year a Central Statistics Office survey found 52 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men have been subjected to some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times