‘Very serious mistakes’ in State’s sexual violence strategy

Rape Crisis Network Ireland director labels approach to prevention services ‘regressive’

The Government is making "very serious mistakes" in its "regressive" approach towards sexual violence prevention services according to the director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).

Speaking at the launch of the National Rape Crisis Statistics report for 2014, Dr Clíona Saidléar said a drastic reduction to her organisation's core funding from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency effective from last March constitutes a "massive failing" for the State's sexual violence prevention policies.

“There isn’t anyone or anything that will fill that void going forward. We’re talking about a silencing for advocating for the voice of survivors, and to raise the voice of survivors in a collective way to national policy level,” she said.

“Tusla will only ever pick up 20 per cent of secondary prevention. They have no capacity, skill set or even remit around doing anything more than that.


“I think the Government needs to reactivate on this question, I think the Government has taken the view that Tusla is taking care of it. We’re very clear that Tusla can never, even at full capacity, take care of the issue of sexual violence for this Government,” she added.

Dr Saidléar appealed for the Government to step in and fill the void caused by the withdrawal of financial support from Tusla, who she says has adopted a “dismissive” approach towards the RCNI.

In total, over 18,000 calls, texts and emails were received by 14 Rape Crisis Centres nationwide last year, and some 1,900 people chose to avail of support and counselling.

The report revealed that 80 per cent of survivors choose not to engage with gardaí or State agencies, a situation partly caused by a reluctance to reveal aspects of their identity or the identity of their abuser or abusers.

Addressing the audience at Tuesday’s event, abuse survivor Rosie – whose full name was not disclosed in order to protect her anonymity – said there is a “worrying” and “frightening” atmosphere in Rape Crisis Centres across the country following a series of budget cuts.

“Currently, the atmosphere in the centres is very, very frightening. It’s extremely worrying. Survivors are scared that their services are going to close. There’s no clear vision for the future in terms of Tusla or any of the Government agencies.”

She continued: “People are much more informed, they’re much more aware, but the reality is you’re still asked to shop your dad, you’re still asked to shop your brother; you’re still the person who has to give the details and you’re still the person who has to report it somewhere. That is still horrendously difficult.

“As an adult survivor of sexual violence, it’s still difficult in my own local community, it’s still difficult in my family… I think it really is hurtful not to listen to survivors, and particularly adult survivors because they do have all those nuances, and nobody is listening to that.”

Of 53 pregnancies caused by rape which the RCNI knew of last year, 26 per cent were aborted. Referring to this finding, Dr Saidléar indicated that Ireland does not take a humane approach towards such cases, and called for “safe and legal” abortion services to be introduced in this jurisdiction.

“The limitation of choices for those women in crisis make what is already an incredibly difficult situation unnecessarily more difficult,” she said.

Responding to Dr Saidléar’s comments, a spokeswoman for Tusla stated that RCNI’s database “does not meet Tusla requirements”, and funding has instead been diverted to “front-line” services offering direct counselling.

“The decision to cease the funding to RCNI is dictated by the need to achieve the best use of limited available resources. RCNI does not provide direct services to victims.

“RCNI did not produce a comprehensive dataset from all sexual violence support services. Data from the two largest services, Dublin and Cork, was not included in the dataset. In addition, Tusla did not always have timely access to the data collected...” she said.