Eighty per cent of sexual violence survivors knew their attackers

Survivors of sexual violence and abuse knew the perpetrators of the crimes in nearly 80 per cent of cases, according to a new study, just published.

The Galway Rape Crisis Centre’s annual report for 2011 reveals this was the case for both male and female survivors.

The number of people contacting its service has almost quadrupled in seven years. It has risen from 183 in 2005 to 671 in 2011.

“This is exactly why we had to move premises earlier this year,” says executive director Aoibheann McCann.

“We found that in the past people would ring several times before they came in, now people often ring and just ask to be seen straight away. However many people have been using our helpline in lieu of counselling as we have a six month waiting list with people waiting up to a month to be seen for an initial assessment.”

While demand for the centre’s service is growing, its income is plummeting- from €456,360 to €419,338 last year due to a reduction in HSE funding and a fall in fundraising income.

GRCC, which is based at Forster Court, also saw a sharp increase in assault call outs, the report outlines. Volunteer advocates on call 24 hours a day attended 77 people, up from 50 in 2010.

The report points out that these numbers validate the statistics which indicate when a dedicated service is provided to survivors of rape and sexual violence - at the sexual assault treatment unit which opened in Galway in 2009 - more people will attend. The publication outlines this increases year on year as it receives more referrals from external services, such as doctors and other social service organisations.

Rape is still the most reported sexual crime by clients (60 per cent ) followed by sexual assault (32 per cent ) and sexual harassment (four per cent ).

The percentage of male clients using GRCC’s service was down this year to 12 per cent compared with 88 per cent of females. However, the number of men using the helpline increased dramatically. The centre says this indicates that males need the service but are more inclined to use the helpline which gives them vital access to support and information while allowing them to maintain their anonymity.

The majority of male survivors were subjected to sexual violence in their childhood while females were three times more likely than males to be sexually violated as an adult.

More than 70 per cent of clients were aged under 40 years with the majority (35 per cent ) aged 30 to 39 years. Some six per cent were under 17 years while 11 per cent were over 50. There was a noticeable increase in the 18 to 21 age group. Aoibheann McCann says this reinforces the value of the centre’s education workshops in heightening awareness about sexual violence.

Most of the clients using GRCC’s service (74 per cent ) are Irish, according to its annual report. Fourteen per cent were from African, five per cent were from the UK while four per cent were from other European countries.

One client fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Ireland in 2009 after being gang raped by soldiers. Her six-year-old daughter was raped and murdered in front of her. She found the regular support of the GRCC’s counselling and art therapy very helpful, according to the report.

“She said it was helpful to have a person who she can trust to listen and support her. Art therapy helps her process traumatic material in a symbolic non-verbal way.”

The most common location of a sexual assault is in the home of the survivor or perpetrator. Some 36 per cent took place in the survivor’s home, 27 per cent in the perpetrator’s home and 14 per cent of crimes happened outside.

The report emphasises that a sexual assault is four times more likely to occur at home rather than outside. This dispels the myth that such violence occurs mainly in a location unknown to the survivor and by a stranger.



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