RCNI values include:

  • A recognition that all forms of sexual abuse are acts of violence, involving the abuse of power and control
  • The belief that by drawing on the experiences, wisdom and power of survivors of sexual violence we can make a difference
  • A recognition that perpetrators of sexual violence are responsible for their decisions and therefore it is appropriate that perpetrators be held accountable
  • A commitment to a partnership and collaborative approach with other key agencies towards instigating real and profound change
  • A commitment to a developmental approach in supporting member RCCs to achieve Quality Standards
  • A commitment to constructive, accountable and transparent leadership
  • A commitment to a pro-active and leadership role which is informed by:
    • expertise from our member RCCs
    • quality data from our RCCs member
    • other relevant national and international research
  • Feminist, human rights and equality based ideological foundations
  • Striving for the creation of a society that accepts responsibility for the eradication of all forms of violence against women, as well as all forms of sexual violence

RCNI Principals and Ethos Statement

Rape Crisis Centres emerged from the women’s movement in the 1970s and a new, feminist analysis of sexual violence. Feminist analysis recognizes that rape, incest and child abuse are all acts of violence, involving abuse of power and control.

The analysis of power lies at the core of an RCC response to all forms of sexual violence. We recognise the abuse of power by the perpetrator, and the experience of complete loss of power by the victim.

We recognise sexual violence as a violation of human rights and we work from the conviction that women and girls, men and boys, have the right to live free of sexual violence and the threat of sexual violence.

We strive for the creation of a society that accepts responsibility for the eradication of all forms of sexual violence and violence against women. We seek to bring about social change which will end all forms of sexual violence.

The Values and Beliefs which inform our work include:

  • Belief that by drawing on the experience, wisdom and power of survivors of sexual violence we can make a difference
  • Commitment to building learning organizations that promote collective and democratic structures and working relationships which model positive, accountable uses of power
  • Understanding that sexual violence is under-pinned and sustained by inequalities including gender inequality
  • Commitment to striving for real and profound change, towards a society that embodies respect for human dignity and which challenges discrimination and inequalities.

Rape Crisis Centres

RCCs provide a safe environment where survivors of sexual violence come first. All staff and volunteers deeply understand both the realities of sexual violence and the impact of all forms of sexual violence. Survivors’ reactions are viewed as normal responses to trauma and to coping with the aftermath of trauma.

All staff and volunteers are trained in the reality and extent of sexual violence. In supporting survivors through helplines, advocacy, counselling, medical or legal processes, RCCs understand the need to maintain confidentiality.

The intention of RCCs is to return the control that was taken during any experience of sexual violence. This has been described as the survivor/recovery model. RCCs provide real choice to medical or diagnostic models often favoured by state agencies. In the RCC response the emphasis is on promoting well-being, the focus is growth rather than symptoms and defects. The survivors coping strategies are explored in terms of their usefulness.

The Survivor/Recovery Model

The returning of power and control informs our responses to those needing support. The women and men who have experienced crimes of sexual violence are not perceived as victims, they are survivors. The survivor is an active agent in their own recovery. They are not viewed as passive recipients of treatment. They are the experts in their recovery, they must have control and recovery must take place at their pace.

The survivor/recovery model sees traumatic systems as creative responses and adaptations to horrific events. The survivor/recovery model explores how the survivor survived creatively during trauma, or during repeated trauma, how s/he creatively survived afterwards given their life situation. It emphasizes the survivors’ resources and positive strengths.

The RCC approach emphasizes that support can only be effective within a relationship of safety, trust and collaboration. Collaboration can be seen to involve trusting in the survivors’ ability to heal him or herself.

Attention is given to issues of power throughout our work, including within support and counselling relationships. Empowering the survivor involves both the personal empowerment of the survivor in any contact s/he may have with the RCC and also the empowerment if the survivor within society. RCC response includes changing society towards greater equality.


The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) was set-up in 1985. At that time there were six Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs) in Ireland, offering support, information and counselling. These RCCs came together to exchange information, pool expertise and unite in their common goals of changing Irish society.

Prior to 1985 many RCCs had no funding what-so-ever. They provided a service using their own homes, telephones and cars. They met women who had experienced rape and sexual violence in hotel lobbies and offered what practical support and information they had. There was no source of funding, statutory or otherwise. Those in a position to help financially were reluctant to accept that the problem of rape and sexual abuse of women, children and men was as widespread as we knew it to be. It remained hidden because survivors could not disclose their abuse to a society which simply did not want to know.

Centres began to receive minimal funding (for example £5,000) in 1985. The meagre funding was used to pay for training, premises and advertising services as the workforce continued to be mainly volunteers.

Fiona Neary, is the RCNI founder and worked for almost twenty years in the rape crisis and violence against women sectors. Previous to the RCNI she was  a founder member of the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre, and worked in front line service delivery and development in both Mayo and Galway RCCs. Fiona stepped down in 2014. Cliona Saidlear is currently Executive Director of RCNI.

The Network’s aims in 1985

Its stated goals at that time included:

  • Gaining recognition and respect for the work of the regional centres
  • Obtaining a secure and acceptable level of statutory funding
  • Assisting and supporting new RCCs to set up
  • Bringing about major reforms in the area of rape legislation
  • Promoting good working relations with statutory bodies such as the Gardai and Health boards

From May 1986 the Network campaigned for reform of the 1981 Criminal Law Rape Act. Most of the recommendations from the Networks mission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women’s Rights were included in the new legislation, which came into force in January 1991.

The RCNI first received funding from the Department of Health and Children in 1999.

The RCNI has successfully lobbied for and informed myriad legislative improvement and has achieved commitments to funding and pay and conditions for Rape Crisis Centres as well as developing comprehensive quality assurance standards for the Rape Crisis sector. RCNI has been a global leader in developing administrative data collection systems and leading the development of culture change tools such as the shift from survivor behavior focused initiatives to whole of population, consent-based and empowerment approaches.