Numbers treated by sex assault unit up 3%


Record numbers of patients are being treated at the State’s main unit for treating victims of sexual assault at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

The unit provided care for 353 men and women in 2011, up 3 per cent on the previous year, according to the latest annual report from the hospital.

One in five victims of sexual assault who presented to the hospital chose not to engage with the criminal justice system by reporting their incident to An Garda Síochána, according to the report. Some 286 people, or 81 per cent of the total, had already reported to the Garda.

Patients who do not report an incident receive the same standard of medical, psychological and emotional care but forensic samples cannot be taken, the hospital says.

Since 2009, the unit has provided preventative treatment against sexually transmitted infection when patients present after rape or other sexual crimes. Patients are offered a drug to prevent and treat Chlamydia, as well as a hepatitis B immunisation programme.

Some 56 patients in 2011 also received post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV where specific factors arose in relation to the assault or the assailant.

Dr Maeve Eogan, director of the unit, said it had outgrown its physical space in the hospital.

She said a priority for the future would be the development of facilities to store forensic evidence from patients who are uncertain as to whether they will report an incident to the Garda.

“Forensic evidence deteriorates quickly over time and such a secure storage facility with appropriate protocols in place would enable samples to be taken prior to the loss of forensic evidence, while a patient decides whether or not to report the incident.”

The Rotunda unit is one of six centres funded by the HSE around the State to treat sexual assault victims.