Belfast Telegraph

Rape crisis service warns over cuts

One of the country's key rape support services has warned massive funding cuts could leave abandoned four out of five survivors of abuse.

In an alarming assessment of its work, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said all its core funding has been cut since the Government established Tusla: the Child and Family Agency last year.

The group warned this could be the last time it releases pow erful evidence-based reports on the level of abuse and support sought by survivors, which for last year showed almost two-thirds of people seeking help at its centres did not report an attack to gardai.

Elaine Mears, RCNI data and services information manager, said victims will effectively be invisible if the group is not able to record information on those seeking help .

"We now have a highly developed and internationally recognised data collection system, which continues to give a powerful voice to survivor stories. We call on government to fund the system as a matter of urgency as this system, which cannot be replicated by the state, is currently at risk," she said.

The RCNI report on work at its 14 rape crisis centres revealed:

:: 93% of attackers knew their victim and 15% were under 18.

:: Just over half of survivors aged 13 to 17 had been raped.

:: One-third of survivors reported abuse to police and two-thirds of those who came forward thought they were treated sensitively.

:: 1,913 people took up counselling and support, and almost 19,300 calls were made to hel plines.

Tusla, which oversees the grants, dismissed the criticism and said the cuts were forced to make the best use of limited resources and fund front-line services for victims.

"RCNI does not provide direct services to victims. The change in funding arrangements to RCNI will have no impact on the provision of services to victims of sexual violence," it said.

Tusla said it will maintain the four million euro paid out last year for counselling and support services for survivors of abuse and make an additional 500,000 euro investment in resources for victims and to prevent sexual violence.

The RCNI praised the establishment of Tusla for addressing critical gaps and past failings but RCNI director Dr Cliona Saidlear warned the new agency cannot fully address sexual violence when 80% of survivors will not contact a state body.

"If the totality of this state's response to survivors is to provide services to only 20%, then the state's response is manifestly insufficient," she said.

"It is vital this Government move beyond an understanding that its duty has been fulfilled in the handing over of its responsibility to the statutory agency, Tusla."

RCNI claim it is the only agency able to reveal evidence of the level of sexual abuse as so many victims do not report to gardai.

"Through the independent RCNI data, knowledge and information system and our programme of analysis and research, survivors can inform legislation, policies and practices nationally regarding sexual violence," Ms Mears added.


From Belfast Telegraph