Rapes at house parties increasing, says crisis centre

‘A number of clients have reported being raped by people they had met on a dating platform’

The number of people being raped at house parties and by multiple perpetrators is increasing, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC).

In its 2017 annual report, published on Monday, the centre also reports an increase in the number and proportion of “crisis calls”, where a person has been assaulted in the previous six months. These callers are prioritised for appointments and will see a counsellor within a week to 10 days.

These “crisis appointments” accounted for 39 per cent of sessions in 2016, and this rose to 48 per cent last year.

"We welcome the fact that more and more victims of recent sexual violence are coming forward to seek counselling in the immediate aftermath of the trauma," DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell said. "We believe the highlighting of consent issues and the solidarity shown by a number of public campaigns has influenced this positive development.

“However, the increase . . . has resource implications for the DRCC. While 48.5 per cent of the total number of clients sought crisis appointments in 2017, 51.5 per cent needed long-term therapy for past sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse.”

The centre’s 24-hour national helpline had 12,855 contacts last year with a continuing increase in calls specifically about being raped as an adult. These calls have increased by 30 per cent between 2016 and 2017. Callers were male, female and transgender, ranged in age from 16 to over 80, and were of 64 nationalities. A total of 10,818 counselling calls were made.

“The role of social media and dating sites in everyday life was a notable trend. A number of clients have reported being raped by people they had met on a dating platform,” the report stated. “Other trends include an apparent increase in the incidence of rape at house parties or in the home of friends or acquaintances. Anecdotally more clients are reporting the use of ‘date-rape’ drugs.

“There is also an increase in the level of violence, use of weapons and rape by multiple perpetrators,” the report says. “Increases have also been recorded in referrals form mental health agencies and in the number of refugee clients.”

Campaigning for change

Major aspects of the charity’s work are advocating to improve the environment for victims of rape and sexual assault, both by campaigning for changes to the criminal justice system and by raising awareness of consent and of the impact of sexual violence on victims and their families.

It is calling for guidelines on how sexual violence, rape and assault are reported and portrayed in media.

“If we are to successfully combat sexual violence, our society has to become better at acknowledging the harm that it does and what is being done to counter that violence . . . Media organisations have the power to influence how sexual violence is perceived. They have the power to help raise awareness and destroy myths.”

With media support, said Ms Blackwell, "we can substantially reduce tolerance of sexual violence in Irish society by changing the narrative and ensuring that harmful myths no longer dominate the headlines".

Anyone who has been affected by rape or sexual assault can call the DRCC 24-hour national helpline on Freephone 1800 77 8888.