The number of people who were raped or suffered sexual violence and sought help from rape crisis centres during the first four months of the Covid-19 outbreak has jumped by 98%.
Data from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) showed a huge increase in the number of people contacting the crisis centres.
Figures show that that the number of victims of sexual violence contacting the centres was 98% higher compared to the period between March and June last year.
There was also an 83% increase in the length of time spent on calls to Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) helplines.
Rape centre helplines saw an increase of calls of around 23% during the three months of lockdown measures, with the largest increase being in March – 63%.
The RCNI said the new data, taken from six Rape Crisis Centres, shows that they had to rapidly adapt to changing survivors’ needs and capacity to reach out.
From our conversations with counsellors and managers in RCCs we believe that this is in a large part due to the lockdown measures triggering past trauma.Dr Cliona Saidlear
The report stated the data shows that the pandemic was causing “additional trauma”, with some people having to put their contact with rape crisis on hold until they “feel safe enough and have the time and privacy to give focus to their trauma”.
The RCNI said that now more than ever, specialist sexual violence services will need to have secure funding next year.
Alongside the counselling that continued, RCCs offered an additional 30% appointments with survivors. These took place by phone or video call.
Survivors contacting through the helpline changed what they wanted from that contact also.
Elaine Mears, RCNI’s data and privacy coordinator said: “Where previously helpline contacts may have been just a few minutes, now they were lasting over 30 minutes, with calls up to an hour and a half increasing five-fold when compared to the same period last year.
“During the Covid stay-at-home period, we have seen an increase in survivors of all age groups contacting RCCs for support, especially those aged between 40-49.”
RCNI executive director, Dr Cliona Saidlear, said: “From our conversations with counsellors and managers in RCCs we believe that this is in a large part due to the lockdown measures triggering past trauma.
“This age cohort are often holding multiple responsibilities such as care of children and elders as well as un/employment, increasing pressures at this time.”
Alongside this, data shows that 781 children and young people, aged between 12 and 23, engaged with these six RCCs.
Dr Saidlear added: “We are so glad that children and young people who needed rape crisis support reached out and found us.
“We do remain concerned for children during this period and know that there are many who have not been able to ask for support and help.
“We need redoubled Government and Tusla (child and family agency) commitment to ensure that Rape Crisis Centres, alongside other specialist services and partners, the Gardai, Sexual Assault treatment Units and children’s specialist services will be here when they do.”
There was also a 69% increase in the number of contacts made to RCCs by individuals seeking information, and a 72% increase in the number of professionals accessing the helplines.