“No longer a second humiliation, a second invasion of privacy,” so said Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright, spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs, on welcoming the opening of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Mullingar Hospital this week.
The long-awaited unit, which will cater for victims of sexual abuse across the region opened its doors on Monday, staffed by specially qualified experts.
Enright’s voice joins with those of other local politicians who have greeted the move, including Senator Nicky McFadden and Independent town Councillor Betty Doran.
The Fine Gael TD said she was delighted the facility was finally open, though added it was “not something anyone hoped to need to use”.
“It was awful for women to be travelling to Dublin, staying in their clothing for the journey, waiting for a doctor, sometimes travelling in a Garda car. Some women described the journey as a second humiliation, a second invasion of privacy.”
She also welcomed the “ongoing training” between Gardaí, medical staff, and staff at local rape crisis centres.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t play local politics with – once it’s in the Midlands to serve those who have waited so long,” enduring what she described as the previous “horrendous process”.
“Now that it’s relatively within people’s own locality, they’re more likely to be able to be cared for by people they know and have their follow-up counselling locally.”
On Friday, Minister Mary Harney congratulated the first group of eight nurses who have completed the academic component of the Higher Diploma in Nursing (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination ), many of them achieving a distinction. They will work in units across the country, including Mullingar.
“This is an important achievement for the students and all concerned with the development, implementation and successful completion of the first programme, and I extend my congratulations and best wishes to all concerned.”
These nurses/midwives will undertake the clinical forensic examination of victims of sexual violence in Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs ) and will also provide holistic care to these victims. This should be of great benefit to the people who find themselves facing the trauma associated with sexual assault and violence.
There will be nearly 30 staff associated with the Mullingar unit, including 11 doctors and 12 nurses who will be working on-call, while there will be three full-time staff including a Forensic Nurse and Clinical Nurse Specialist and a clerical officer.