Belfast Telegraph

Rape Crisis counsellors' cuts plea

Sex attack counsellors have pleaded for funding for free services not to be cut after supporting 2,541 people last year.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) revealed it saw an 11% increase in demand for support in 2011 on the back of a 9% increase the previous year. Specialists provided 20,727 hours of counselling and support to women, men and children.

Miriam Duffy, chairwoman and director of Rape Crisis Midwest, urged health minister Dr James Reilly not to cut funding further in Budget 2013 as demand showed no sign of easing.

"We know how much strength it takes for a survivor to reach out for support," she said.

"Therefore, it is with great sadness that we have had to affect cut backs because we know that these cuts mean that we cannot fully meet survivors' needs at the time they need it. Any further cuts in the forthcoming 2013 budget will inevitably result in fewer services for survivors."

The RCNI said that during 2010 there had been a 6% increase in the amount of hours of counselling provided. In 2011, its network went on to deal with 2,308 survivors of sexual violence, 91% of the total, while the other 9% was made up of people who were supporting someone who had been subjected to sexual violence.

The RCNI also said that last year there had been a 9% increase in contacts made to Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) helplines compared with 2010, with 28,615 calls made throughout the year.

"All centres have done everything they can to protect our core work with survivors and their supporters, by 2012 for most RCCs this was no longer possible," Ms Duffy said. The network has seen two of its centres close for outreach services.

"As a result, County Wicklow has no Rape Crisis service, and those affected now have to travel to neighbouring counties to attend a service," Ms Duffy added.

The RCNI said some of its centres suffered cuts of 15% in 2009 and then in 2010 funding dropped anywhere from 2% to 10%. It said cuts had been capped at 5% for 2012. The network said it was only able to continue to sustain services in the face of increased demand thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers.

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