Reported rapes up by one-third on 1997


The number of rapes reported to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre rose by almost a third last year, according to provisional figures. Calls about marital rape rose by 91 per cent compared with 1997.

The centre received 7,109 calls last year. Some 822 calls related to "recent rape", an increase of 27 per cent. Sixty-seven calls involved marital rape, almost double the number reported in 1997.

The director of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ms Olive Braiden, said yesterday this increase might have been caused by better recording methods rather than an increase in marital rapes being reported.

The figures mirror Garda crime figures. While there was a drop of up to 10 per cent in reported crime last year reports of sexual assault are on the increase for the second year running, after a 21 per cent increase in 1997.

The Dublin rape crisis line received an unprecedented number of hoax calls last month, with 110 calls logged as hoaxes, an average of more than three a day. A further 82 calls were made where the caller said nothing. There were 2,792 calls to the centre last year relating to past child sexual abuse, an increase of 13 per cent.

"The McColgan case has helped past abuse people to speak about rapes," Ms Braiden said.

"I think there was so much secrecy and cover-up that a lot of people dealing with past abuse have come forward now. I think that will level out in a year or two."

There was still an issue of the number of people reporting sexual assaults to gardai. That rate was still significantly lower than it should be, she said. "Only 30 per cent of all people coming here actually go to the gardai. That proportion falls further if you consider how many of those who go to the gardai end up with a prosecution."

Analysis of the centre's figures up to June last year found that clients were more likely to report rape to the gardai if the rapist was a stranger. Almost half of its clients who had been raped by strangers reported it. Just a quarter of those raped by boyfriends or relatives reported the attack to gardai.

More than half of contacts made with the 24-hour crisis phone line in the year to June 1998 related to child sexual abuse, with 4 per cent relating to both child sexual abuse and adult rape.

Ms Braiden said there was no way of knowing if more people were being sexually assaulted or the rise was just an increase in people willing to report the crime. "What we do know for certain is that there is more violence towards rape victims. Some people attending for treatment have suffered horrific physical violence."

Ms Braiden said fewer people came to the centre for counselling during December. Many appointments were cancelled as people were "just coping and not opening up old wounds".

The provisional figures for 1998 showed that the highest number of reports of recent rapes was received in July, when 90 calls were taken.

November recorded the highest number of marital rape reports, with 12 calls, and the highest number of "past rape" calls was received in March. Ten years ago the centre received just 1,403 calls, with the latest figures showing a fivefold increase in the last decade. This increase indicated "that victims of sexual violence are less likely to remain silent", Ms Braiden said.