Charity sees prostitution case rise
The country's leading charity for women in prostitution saw cases increase by more than 20% last year, new figures have showed.
Ruhama assisted almost 200 women affected by the underground sex industry in 2009, of which 66 were victims of trafficking.
Two of those helped were children at the time of being trafficked, with one girl aged just 15 when she was first brought to Ireland.
The organisation said nearly half of the women brought in to the country were from Nigeria, with the majority located in Dublin.
Ruhama's chief executive Sarah Benson warned that the figures in the 2009 annual report were only the tip of the iceberg, with many more women trapped in underground operations.
"Women in 2009 reported horrific levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse," she added.
"The reporting of rape and sexual assault was almost universal, many women also experienced sexual abuse as children and young women. Some were groomed by family members and partners into prostitution. Women reported having been punched in the face, the stomach, being kicked down stairs, beaten for refusing to have sex with men, being locked in and refused food, being burned, being bitten."
Ruhama worked with 59 women through its outreach initiative last year and 137 women through its more intensive casework service, where each person is assigned a caseworker and a care plan. But despite an increase in demand for its services, the voluntary organisation saw official funding cut by around 20% last year.
Ruhama chairman Diarmaid O Corrbui said the charity was severely limited by the lack of money available. "We want to be able to continue to support these women and develop our services, but we are seriously restricted by the funding available to us," he said.
Since it was established in 1989 Ruhama has supported more than 2,000 women, many of whom have ended their link to prostitution.