The number of men contacting Galway Rape Crisis Centre has almost doubled in the past three years according to its 2009 annual report, which will be launched tomorrow (Friday ).
Twelve per cent of the centre’s clients are now males compared with six per cent in 2007. They tend to present later than females, most tend to be in their mid to late thirties. The majority are survivors of child abuse, the remainder have been raped as adults.
“Men tend to be slightly older when they come to us,” explains a spokesperson for the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. “If they are raped it is a very personal violation. They find it hard to speak about this. It goes to the heart of what society says it is to be a man, to be strong and a defender.”
They are often prompted to contact the centre following changes in their lives, such as getting married, having their first child, or a bereavement.
“Something profound may happen where they evaluate their life or contacting us may become something they now are able to do.”
The number of male and female clients contacting Galway Rape Crisis Centre has increased by eight per cent with 2,180 calls being made to the centre during 2009. A total of 2,609 in-person counselling sessions, averaging 50 per week, took place there.
The age profile of clients ranges from 23 to 40 years. However, the centre has older and younger clients also, ranging from people in their mid teens to early eighties.
About 50 per cent of clients are survivors of childhood abuse, the remainder are survivors of adult abuse/rape. The former group often have left a “long gap” between the experience and contacting the RCCC. The spokesperson says there are many reasons for this.
“They may feel they now are at a place in their life where they need to and can address the impact it has on their life. In other cases, a lot of people come forward because they are concerned about others, they come forward to the police as well to protect others.
“The whole culture has changed, the stigma, the blame. For a lot of people all they want to do is tell someone once. Tell their secret, speak out loud [about it]. They may not have told anyone before. The naming of it can be very powerful. There is huge freedom in being able to name it. With the RCC they can do this in confidence. For some people it’s the start of a journey, for others this [naming it] is all they need.”
Survivors develop a coping strategy after the incident, such as freezing, going along with it or fighting back, she says. “Some strategies work, others might turn out not to be helpful long term. People come to us when their strategy is not working for them.”
Galway Rape Crisis Centre offers both crisis and long term counselling. Crisis counselling is for clients who feel overwhelmed and are in need of urgent support. Long-term counselling is aimed at survivors of sexual abuse who want to look in detail at how the abuse affected their lives and want to work out a strategy to work through the trauma they have suffered.
Due to lack of funding there was a three month waiting list for long-term counselling last year - funding for the centre was cut by seven per cent in 2009. This shortfall must be made up by fundraising locally.
The report outlines that the number of asylum seekers being seen by the centre dropped from 24 per cent in 2008 to eight per cent in 2009. This may be due to a declining number of asylum seekers in Ireland.