By Andrew Bushe
Dublin – Calls for help to Dublin’s rape crisis center soared by 30 percent in the year to the end of June, according to figures released this week.
The center’s director, Olive Braiden, described the increase as "enormous," the biggest since the 1980s.
She said that 38 percent were people calling about a recent rape and 57 were people who were abused as children but were now adult and were seeking help for the first time. She said the increase may result from publicity about rape cases, a greater general awareness of the problem and the fact that people know there are services to help them.
"There is a greater feeling that people will be believed when they come for help and that their family and friends will support them. That has not been the case in the past".
She said that "sadly" many who called them did not then go on to report the matter to the gárdaí.
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Overall, of people who rang about rape and past sexual abuse, only 29 percent made a complaint. In the case of rape alone, 45 percent reported the assault. "That is still very, very low. We would like everybody who is raped or assaulted to report to the gárdaí."
The statistics revealed that one in five of those raped knows their attacker. The center’s clients were more likely to report a rape to the gárdaí if the rapist was a stranger rather than if he was a relative or boyfriend.
Almost one in five had been attacked by their boyfriend, husband or a partner who was living with them. Less than one-third had been raped by a stranger. Almost half of those attacked by a stranger contacted the gárdaí compared to a quarter of those raped by someone close to them.
More than 7,000 calls were made the center’s 24 hour crisis line with almost half being first time callers. Child sexual abuse involved 57 percent of the calls and 38 percent were seeking advice because they had been raped. The overwhelming number of calls, 83 percent, were women.
There has also been a 12 percent increase in those attending the center for counselling.
In child abuse cases, one third suffered at the hands of a father or brother.
The shock new figures come as the government plans new legislation in the wake of a report which said rape victims should have full legal representation in the courtroom when facing those convicted of the crime. The report from center and TCD’s school of law, found that rape victims are entitled to some form of legal representation in all EU countries, except for Britain and Ireland.
Victims should have legal representation at the pre-trial stage and during the trial itself, the 400-page report recommends.
It found Irish rape victims felt less confident, were less articulate and experienced more stress about testifying in court than interviewees in any of the other countries studied such as Denmark, Belgium, France and Germany.
The report also seeks measures to discourage unduly aggressive cross-examination, avoidance of unnecessary trial delays and minimizing contact in court between victims and defendants.
It also wants previous sexual experience ruled as inadmissible, allowing courts to award compensation and special training for judges and those dealing regularly with rape cases.