Oral presentation: Meeting Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence’s needs


The scale of intervention needed to address gender based violence in Ireland is not reflected in resourcing. Domestic Violence alone (not including sexual violence) has been estimated to cost the Irish state €2.2bn annually or 1.16% of 2014 GDP. In 2014 the government provided €20m of funding to domestic and sexual violence services which is only 0.3% of the annual government expenditure.

Eight years of austerity has seen an average of 20% and 13% cuts, to existing funding across sexual and domestic violence NGOs respectively against a background of increased demand. The sexual and domestic coalition bodies, RCNI and SAFE Ireland, were cut by 70% and 49% in the same period.

In 2009 7,512 women received support from a DV service, this figure grew to 9,500 in 2014. Waiting lists for rape crisis counselling are between 2 and 12 months and by our calculations and according to the requirements set forth by the Istanbul Convention and the Council of Europe Ireland’s has only 31% of the recommended minimum shelter provision. (See note 1). In 2015 there were 4,796 unmet requests for emergency accommodation1, women and children were turned away from refuges because there simply was no space.

In 2016 the budget increased by just €200,000. The 2017 additional budget for the national planning agency Tusla of €37m has not been allocated yet and there is no information yet available about how much of that increase will find its way to DSGBV services which currently are allocated just 3% of the Tusla overall budget.

We recommend:

  1. Allocate an additional €31 million annually (from 2017) to address immediate gaps in our struggling services, from the Gardaí to specialist domestic and sexual violence services to the provision of safe housing.
  2. Increase the emergency accommodation capacity of domestic violence services by 10% or by 14 family units every year for the next five years.
  3. The allocation of budgeting must become transparent through a national development plan by Tusla which is public and transparent to ensure accountable and equitable access to services.

However, the underfunding of services deals only with a symptom and not the cause.

1. SAFE Ireland National Domestic Violence Service Statistics Report 2015 is yet to be published.

RCNI submission to JOCJDE on Victims of Crime July 2015

RCNI Submission to JOCJDE on Victims of Crime GS July 2015

Letter: Consent Education to prevent sexual violence

Consent Education to prevent sexual violence

We welcome Trinity College Student Union’s initiative to propose mandatory consent classes to first year students. There is well developed evidence behind this initiative which recognises that consent education is critical to preventing sexual violence.

Working with the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), USI first made the inclusion of consent mainstream across it sexual health activities in 2013. That same year USI with the support of Cosc developed and undertook the first quantitative research of sexual violence experiences on campus (the ‘Say it’ report ) while RCNI commissioned the School of Psychology NUIG to undertake qualitative research of 3rd level students resulting in a report entitled, ‘Young People, Alcohol and Sex: What’s consent got to do with it?’.

Dr Padraig MacNeela at NUIG extended this work to include large surveys on student experiences of unwanted sexual contact and consent. Based on the research findings he and his team developed the Smart Consent initiative in 2015 – consisting of theory- and evidence-driven workshops and other engagement strategies. Working in collaboration with USI, Student Unions, Student Services, RCNI and a number of the third level institutions, notably UCC, this group have recently received a Research for Policy and Society grant from the Irish Research Council and the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme to study the implementation of the Smart Consent workshop approach.

Meanwhile an RCNI collaboration of Rape Crisis Centres reviewed long standing education practice. One of those leading centres, Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse centre went on to work with the HSE and the local 3rd level Tralee IT and the Students Union to set up an interagency partnership.  Under that initiative the KRSAC delivered training to three of the IT’s schools, nursing, social studies and health promotion, who in turn trained up students who then delivered peer led workshops to all incoming students in those schools last year.

Influenced by these activities a range of doctoral and post-doctoral research projects on sexual activity, culture and consent are now underway across a number of universities. The various consent workshops continue to be rolled out and the critical conversations across campuses and about how we run and support programmes, how we evaluate them and how the target audience accesses them, continue.

In the research young people themselves identified how unprepared they felt for the complexity of negotiating sexual activity and they strongly recommended consent workshops be delivered at school age. Much work is being undertaken to address this critical gap. RCNI have a 5 year collaboration with Foróige to provide an integrated consent and sex and the law training to young people 12- 24 and has recently developed consent modules for inclusion in the B4uDecide.ie Relationship and Sexual Education resource materials. The Be4uDecide.ie resource materials are being revised by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme as an action under the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020. The 2nd National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based violence aims to develop relevant education programmes within Youth Reach with the Department of Education and Skills.

TCD SU is to be commended for taking up this challenge and we look with interest at their innovation in making the workshops compulsory.


Clíona Saidléar, PhD

Executive Director

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI)

Carmichael House, North Brunswick St., Dublin 7


Letter: Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Sir, – In “‘Very serious mistakes’ in State’s sexual violence strategy” (June 9th), you reported Tusla’s comment on the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) national data, knowledge and information system that “the data collection techniques employed by RCNI were not of the requisite standard”. This statement is untrue. We thank The Irish Times for amending that article online subsequently; this now reads that the RCNI data system “does not meet Tusla requirements”.

RCNI’s system has been both nationally and internationally assessed, deemed to be valid and reliable in its measurement as well as ground breaking, to the degree the system has been recognised by the European Institute on Gender Equality as a model of best practice for European countries and has been showcased by invitation at international and UN events.

As we have explored with Tusla, the RCNI exists to serve survivors and the issue of sexual violence; we do not exist only to serve Tusla’s administrative needs.

One way we do this is by comprehensively and systematically documenting the precise nature of sexual violence and its impact. So while we are clear the RCNI data system can meet Tusla’s data needs, this is only one small part of its purpose.

Further to Tusla’s statement that “funding has instead been ‘diverted to ‘front-line’ services offering direct counselling”, there is no evidence that any money has been diverted from RCNI funding to rape crisis centres.

Tusla has, however, made it clear to us that the public sector deficit that it inherited will have to be shouldered equally out of the NGO funding it also inherited, even though we brought no deficit to Tusla. Tusla is putting extra resources into employing their own administrative layer, with four new posts relating to sexual violence. This can hardly be called diverting money to the “front line”. It is additionally untrue to say the RCNI does not provide frontline services, when we do.

Finally but most importantly, the Tusla statement in no way answers the questions we raised last week about the gaps and shortcomings in the Irish Government’s funding and support for a response to the issue of sexual violence. It cannot, because these matters lie outside the capacity and remit of Tusla; they are therefore a matter for Government.

We continue to await a Government response.


Acting Executive Director,

Rape Crisis Network Ireland,

Prospect Hill,


This letter was published on IrishTimes.com on Friday, June 19th, 2015. You can read the original here.

Opinion: Funding cut will erode service for victims of sexual violence

Funding cut will erode service for victims of sexual violence

Sexual violence is highly prevalent across Ireland. One in five girls and one in six boys experience contact sexual abuse and one in 10 women are raped within their life time (SAVI 2002). In short, sexual violence is one of the most critical issues a just society must address. No government can ignore or neglect this issue which impacts in such a pervasive and serious way on society.

A government’s moral, democratic and legal obligations to its citizens on the issue of sexual violence are clear.

Four out of five survivors of sexual violence don’t report and/or don’t seek one-to-one counselling. Four out of five remain outside the systems designed to respond to their needs. The challenge for government is that these survivors still have rights, needs and yet no justice is delivered to them, and no perpetrators are being held to account.

One part of the response to that massive vote of no confidence is to ensure our systems are fit for purpose. For a survivor that means that they are safe and the potential cost of stepping across the threshold of the Garda station is less than the value of doing so. So we work on building listening, effective services that respond to survivors and respect their right to consent, so they can decide how and when to proceed. We also work to ensure that we can meet survivors’ needs when they step across the threshold.

For 40 years we have been doing that work in the rape crisis movement. We have built and continue to build our own services, we have been partnered with our communities to ensure other agencies and professionals can also meet survivors’ needs. We have worked with the State to ensure the set of laws, resources and practices are in place so that the system can work for survivors.

If the totality of this State’s response to survivors is to provide services to only 20 per cent of survivors, then the State’s response is manifestly insufficient. There are scarce resources to meet the needs of the other 80 per cent, but the RCNI and Rape Crisis Centres are part of the solution and therefore it should be a priority to not only protect but enhance them.

Yet Rape Crisis Network Ireland (the independent specialist body Rape Crisis Centres built and continue to own and govern) has had its core funding from Tusla, the Family and Child Agency, withdrawn. Tusla has also proposed new contracts for Rape Crisis Centres which risk the autonomy of rape crisis centres, so vital to survivors, and the range of community activity every rape crisis centre engages in to help the four in five who remain outside of one-to-one counselling.

Tusla’s job is to deliver child protection, early intervention and national planning. RCNI’s job is to deliver the voice of all survivors to the national platforms that can drive, resource and make the changes we know are possible.

Tusla will carry out the very important work of delivering services and improving early intervention, it has little capacity for more. We believe that Tusla cannot deliver on the issue of sexual violence.

If increasingly the independent supports and advocates for survivors rights are eroded and silenced, then survivors will truly stand alone. What is more the burden of sexual violence will come to rest on the shoulders of survivors. It is not their burden. It is the perpetrators’ burden in the first instance and the State’s thereafter. The State must shoulder its burden.

Clíona Saidléar is Acting Director fo the Rape Crisis Network Ireland

This column was published on the IrishTimes.com on Thursday, June, 11th, 2015. You can read the original here.

Opinion: State has job to do and Tusla is not the answer

State has job to do and Tusla is not the answer

SEXUAL violence is highly prevalent across Ireland. One in five girls and one in six boys experience contact sexual abuse and one in 10 women are raped.

Given its systemic and gendered nature, sexual violence is recognised as a life-limiting discrimination under which all women suffer. In short, sexual violence is one of the most critical issues a just society must address. No government can ignore or neglect this issue as its pervasiveness and the seriousness of its negative impacts makes the social contract precarious.

A government’s moral, democratic, and indeed legal obligations to its citizens on the issue of sexual violence are clear.

A lot has happened in the past 40 years of the rape crisis movement. The rape crisis sector has driven and developed innovative responses that are needs-led and survivor-centred. The movement, in partnership with communities, leaders, and government has succeeded in contributing to significant policy and legislative changes, creating safe places for survivors, supporting survivors’ voices to be heard. We have developed shared standards of practice and understanding and set about building an evidence-base to inform these changes. We are proud of these achievements, but it is clear to us that this is only one part of the job and only the beginning.

In 2014 this Government, in a decisive step to address many failings on sexual violence, founded a new agency, Tusla: the Child and Family Agency. Tusla’s capacity and remit addresses critical gaps and past failings in the State’s response to the crime of sexual violence and meeting survivors’ needs, in particular the child survivor. We continue to support them in that endeavour. However, by itself, Tusla can never get the job done. Tusla alone does not fulfil this State’s responsibility on sexual violence.

We estimate that only 20% of survivors will reach out to specialist services. That means 80% do not and will not have their needs met by Tusla’s activities, even at full capacity.

In terms of formal justice, the numbers are the same. We estimate that four out of five victims of sexual violence crime will not access justice; they will continue to have an unmet justice need.

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. More importantly, justice demands that we challenge the status quo of sexual violence prevalence. Justice demands that we act decisively and credibly to prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place. This is not happening.

Instead, under the guise of rationalisation, safe spaces for survivors, the independent bodies and advocacy for survivors on the issue of sexual violence, risk being curtailed, confined and silenced.

Tusla has withdrawn 100% of Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s long standing core funding, which includes the funding to support the body of work that produces the evidence in our latest report.

Tusla has proposed a contract to rape crisis centres which threatens their capacity to offer a safe, non-statutory space to survivors. Survivors’ right to access support without pressure to report to the authorities is at issue.

Under Tusla, not only is a survivor’s right to specialist support services at risk, even on the eve of the new EU Victim’s Directive coming into force, survivors may become burdened with the responsibilities which are properly the State’s, and they may well come to bear that burden in isolation. This must not happen.

The job is not done and arguably has only just begun. This Government must move beyond an understanding that its duty has been fulfilled in the handing over of its responsibility to the agency Tusla. As long as there is insufficient capacity and fragmentary approaches to the prevention of sexual violence, this Government will fail to meet its obligations to victims of sexual violence under the EU Victims’ Directive. We call on Government to take up its role on the issue of sexual violence, the continuation of the status quo unchallenged is not an option.

Cliona Saidlear is acting director, Rape Crisis Network Ireland

This piece was published on IrishExaminer.com on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015. You can read the original here.

RCNI Event – Sexual Violence: The State we’re in – June 9th, RIA, Dublin

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) cordially invite you to the presentation and launch of

 Sexual Violence: The State we’re in

The RCNI National Rape Crisis Statistics Report 2014 and 

analysis of State capacity to progressively respond to sexual violence


RCNI’s unique data and knowledge information system, which is used in the collection of information from survivors attending RCCs in Ireland, is critical to understanding sexual violence. It provides a clear picture of the characteristics of sexual violence experienced by service users in Ireland and the different vulnerabilities they experience. This may be last year the RCNI can present this powerful evidence base from survivors of sexual violence, as funding has been removed by government.


Difficult questions about the future of the sector will also be addressed and analysed.

The event will take place at 10am on Tuesday, June 9th 2015

Venue: Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.


Please feel free to circulate this event with colleagues and other interested parties.


Please rsvp: comms@rcni.ie

This event is free of charge.

RCNI Invite – National Statistics Report 2014 Launch – 9 June 2015


RCNI New Fund it Campaign is Now Live! Help us make history.

RCNI is delighted to announce that our first Fund it campaign is now live.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland turns 30 this year and to celebrate this milestone we would like to create a comprehensive audio and video account of our history. We want to capture the story of how and why the RCNI came to be what it is today – the moments of elation, defeat, frustration, victory and all the bits in-between. We would like to make this account of our past and present as great as possible but to do so we need your help, please consider donating to our Fund it campaign to help us make this goal a reality.


For more information on this project and to find out how you can be a part of it please go to:


Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) is 30 years old and we’d like to celebrate this by reflecting back in order to look forward. To do this we’d like to create audio and video accounts of our history paying tribute to the huge impact, contribution and legacy that Rape Crisis Centres throughout Ireland created when they began working together in 1985 to create our charity organisation. RCNI and Rape Crisis Centres have prompted huge social, political and cultural changes in Ireland, which have positively impacted survivors’ experiences, and attitudes and awareness of sexual violence.

We want to capture the stories of how and why it all happened and came to be what it is today – the moments of elation, defeat, frustration, victory and all the bits in-between. We’d like to make this account of our past and present as personalised as possible as often the richness of history, and especially women’s history, comes from the micro-narratives and accounts. This will involve speaking with the women who had the shared vision of coordinating Rape Crisis Centre responses through the creation of RCNI, and with the many who continue to work within and sustain the movement.

The audio and video pieces we aim to create will really bring the story to life by demonstrating the huge personal commitment and journey made by those involved. Most importantly, this is about preparation for the next step, we are on the cusp of a whole of society and government engagement in challenging the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland.

Our chosen videographer is Maura Cunningham. She has worked in broadcast and web production for 10 years and her experience includes projects with various Youth Groups and organisations such as the Samaritans, VSI and the Department of Education.

We want to collate this story now while we have the opportunity as many of the original founders of RCNI are still working in the sector. We want to write our story so far, so that we can move with purpose into this crucial next phase of realising the movement’s vision towards ending sexual violence.

RCNI Information Seminar: Sexual Offences – What’s new?

Sexual Offences – What’s New?

RCNI are to hold an information seminar on selected topics from the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which will take place on Thursday, April 23rd 2015, from 10.00 to 13.15 at Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2

Expert Speakers will cover:

–         Grooming and other new sexual offences against children;

–         Child Pornography Offences;

–         Sex Offenders: Risk Assessment and Risk Management;

–         Special Measures – new Provisions



09.45:    Registration

10.00:    Welcome and Introduction from RCNI Director, Dr Clíona Saidléar

10.15:    Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon: Child Pornography Offences/Grooming, Q&A

11.00:    BREAK tea/coffee

11.30:    Inspector Michael Lynch (TBC), AGS: Sex Offenders – Risk Assessment/Risk Management, Q&A

12.00:    Dr Conor Hanly, NUI Galway School of Law: Special Measures, Q&A

12.30:    Plenary Discussion on all Presentations

12.45:    RCNI LPD: What’s Missing: A Positive Definition of Consent

13.00:    Close from RCNI Chairperson, Anne Scully


Please be advised a waiting list is now in operation for this event.

Public information seminar on the General Scheme of the forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015

On April 23rd Rape Crisis Network Ireland are holding an event:

A public information seminar on the General Scheme of the forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill is an extensive and ambitious piece of legislation. If you are working in areas of crime, victim support, sex offender management and child protection you may want to know more about what is promised in this legislation as it makes its journey into law. Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) have put together an expert panel to help inform you about key aspects of the Bill.

Speakers will include:

Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon
Dr Conor Hanly, NUIG School of Law
Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon
A representative from An Garda Síochána

The seminar will take place on Thursday, April 23rd at 10am.
Venue: Buswells Hotel, 23 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.


Places are limited, please rsvp: comms@rcni.ie

Feel free to circulate this event.


Invite to RCNI Seminar on forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 - April 23