Clinical Innovation Project: Q&A session for mental health professionals

Responding to the Trauma of Sexual Violence in a Post-Pandemic World


RCNI launches innovative training and research programme to address Counselling Survivors of Sexual Violence On and Off-Line


On January 14th, RCNI launched its Clinical Innovation Project: Working with Dr Jessica Taylor, of, to co-create a training for, and with, counsellors and therapists in the area of sexual violence.


The new programme combines both critical research and training. The programme will gather evidence and understanding around the impact of dealing with the trauma of sexual violence in a pandemic world, and how practitioners have responded. Secondly, RCNI and Dr Jessica Taylor will deliver a CPD recognised training programme, taking into account the evidence, to fast track learning and upskilling to counsellors. This will ensure that survivors can be confident that the services they are accessing, whether in person, or remotely, are of the highest quality.


The programme will also complement the implementation of the O’Malley Report, Supporting a Victim’s Journey: A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases.


Future-Proofed Training


The new training programme Counselling Survivors On and Off-Line will:


  1. Create a specialist and standardised suite of training for those working with survivors of sexual violence;
  2. Ensure that these trainings are accredited and recognised as CPD best practice by key stakeholders, including Government;
  3. Create a register to ensure that all those working with survivors in this post-Covid era have completed the training as the gold standard;
  4. Create an on-line community of practitioners connected to survivors through safe online platforms.
  5. Complement and strengthen other projects and programmes like the O’Malley report training.


The first piece in this project is a Q&A session for mental health professionals, which will be facilitated by RCNI’s own Dr Michelle Walsh, and Dr Jessica Taylor. This will take place over Zoom, and places can be booked here.


Counselling Survivors in an On and Offline World – Date for Your Diary

Date for Your Diary:

Thursday January 14th 2021 – 10:30am to 11:30am

Join Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) and our very special project co-creator and trainer Dr Jessica Taylor, UK based forensic  psychologist, survivor and author of Why Women Are Blamed for Everything for the launch of our pioneering new training standards programme.

Counselling Survivors in an On and Offline World

Delivering world standard trauma counselling for survivors of sexual violence in a post-pandemic world

Specialist, Standardised, Safe

This Clinical Innovation Programme (CIP) has emerged from the experience of Covid-19 when we had to vacate Rape Crisis Centres and trauma counselling services had to move on-line. While restrictions may be lifted in 2021, remote trauma counselling is here to stay, as part of a new hybrid model of on and off-line clinical counselling.

But it’s vital that we know that what we are doing in this new post-pandemic era is working, is of the highest standard possible, is recognised and is completely survivor centred.

That’s why RCNI is already developing and spearheading this ground-breaking new programme to co-create a remote working CPD standard and accredited training.

You are invited to learn more about our aims, our evidence and our proposed methodology and to find out how you can join our first workshop with Dr Jessica Taylor on January 25th, 2021.

Our initiative is supported by Rethink Ireland, through the Innovate Together Fund, a collaboration between Rethink Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development. The Fund supports charities’ innovative responses to the Covid-19 crisis that will provide lasting change.

Further information on how you can register for the on-line launch will follow.

Download the Invitation here

Job Vacancies – Rape Crisis North East are Recruiting for Two Positions

Please see the job descriptions and details re: applying provided by RCNE below:


Fully Accredited Senior Counsellor/Psychotherapist 

Rape Crisis North East provides a professional, free counselling & support services to female and male survivors of all types of sexual violence in Dundalk, Drogheda and Castleblayney.

We are committed to delivering our services with care and professionalism and continue to strive to ensure that we provide the best service for all our clients.

We are looking for a dynamic and highly motivated individual to join our team at RCNE.

2 days – 14 hours Weekly

The ideal candidate will:

· Be fully qualified & accredited member of IACP, IAHIP, PSI, ICP.

· Have experience and/or training in working with sexual violence.

· Have experience in working with adolescent and adult clients.

· Demonstrate excellent communication skills.

· Demonstrate great warmth and the ability to empathise.

· Periodically liaise with other professionals and organizations as appropriate and represent the organizations at meetings, seminars, presentations etc.

· Work as part of the Clinical Team.

· Report to the Manager of RCNE.

The successful candidate shall be required to:

· Work within the ethos and philosophy of RCNE

· Liaise with clients and their families as appropriate with regard to assessments, outcomes, interventions and reviews.

· Receive ongoing supervision.

· Actively participate in RCNE internal meetings e.g. staff meetings, clinical meetings as appropriate.

· Periodically liaise with other professionals and organizations as appropriate.

· Take responsibility for one’s own continued professional development.

· Keep up to date with best practice and procedures in line with the Code of Ethics of IACP, IAHIP, PSI or equivalent governing body.

· Flexibility is required as you may be required to work outside of opening hours.

(Scale for this post is based on Professional Qualified Social Worker Scale = €40,619 to €59,053 pro rata) Note: the successful candidate will be required to complete a Garda Vetting application form. Please email your resume to

Closing date for applications is 5.00pm, Friday 20th November 2020



External Supervisor’s position.

Rape Crisis North East are Recruiting for An External Supervisor’s Position. Rape Crisis North East provides a professional, free counselling & support service to female and male survivors of all types of sexual violence in Dundalk, Drogheda and Castleblayney. We are committed to delivering our services with care and professionalism and continue to strive to ensure that we provide the best service for all our clients. All aspects of Centre work are rooted in a feminist and survivor led approach. The Centre is a member of RCNI and abides by its best practice standards. All our counsellors are accredited or working towards accreditation with IACP, have additional training in rape and sexual abuse and are committed to their own personal and professional development.

We are looking for a Supervisor to provide supervision to support RCNE Counsellors.

Supervision is: A supportive, reflective and learning space in which to consider and examine all aspects of clinical work and to receive support, guidance and feedback as a means of fostering personal and professional best practice, and to ensure the welfare of clients engaged with the services of Rape Crisis North East.

The ideal candidate will:

• Be fully qualified & accredited supervisor and member of IACP, BACP, IAHIP.

• Have experience and/or training in working with sexual violence.

• Have experience in working with adolescent and adult clients.

• Demonstrate excellent communication skills.

• Demonstrate great warmth and the ability to empathise.

• Work as part of the Clinical Team. • Report to the Manager of RCNE.

Supervision Arrangements

• Supervision will usually take place in Rape Crisis North East, unless circumstances arise where a therapist needs additional supervision and it is more convenient for both therapist and supervisor to meet elsewhere, following consultation with Manager.

• Supervision will be facilitated during work hours Payment will be at a rate of €70.00 per hour.

Payment will be on foot of monthly invoice.

Note: the successful candidate will be required to complete a Garda Vetting application form. Please email your resume to Closing date for applications is 5.00pm Friday 27th November 2020.




Rape Crisis Centre’s Services are here to help during Covid-19

We understand that this may a particularly difficult time for sexual violence survivors. Based on the advice of Government with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 16 Rape Crisis Centres nationwide are adjusting to maintain services to clients and other users of their services, while observing best practice to combat infection.

Centers are currently providing telephone or online counselling and support, but our buildings are closed in order to protect the health and well-being of everyone.

We ask that anyone wishing to discuss any matter with a staff member to contact their local Rape Crisis Centre by phone or email. We are here to help.


The National 24-Hour Freephone Rape Crisis Helpline 1800 77 88 88 remains open for those who need to access crisis support.

Please find your local centre here or telephone:

Carlow & South Leinster Rape Crisis & Counselling Centre – 1800 72 77 37

Donegal Sexual Abuse & RCC – 1800 44 88 44

Kerry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre – 1800 63 33 33

Mayo Rape Crisis Centre – 1800 23 49 00

Rape Crisis Midwest – 1800 31 15 11

Rape Crisis North East (RCNE) – 1800 21 21 22

Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre, Sligo Leitrim and West Cavan – 1800 75 07 80

Waterford Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre – 1800 29 62 96

Galway Rape Crisis Centre – 1800 35 53 55

Dublin RCC – 1800 77 88 88

Cork Sexual Violence Centre – 1800 49 64 96

Athlone Midland Rape Crisis Centre –  1800 30 66 00

Regional Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre Tullamore – 1800 32 32 32

Wexford Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Service – 1800 33 00 33

Kilkenny Rape Crisis & Counselling Centre – 1800 47 84 78

Tipperary Rape Crisis Centre – 1800 34 03 40

Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Centre NI – 0808 802 1414

We must recognise how pornography affects young women

For the majority, men’s violence against women does not disturb their capacity to ‘realise their own potential’. But for women, we bear it and we become mentally unwell under its burden, writes Clíona Saidléar

The second ‘My World Survey’ into child and youth mental health shows us that there is not just one world — there are many worlds for our young people.

But we are largely only talking about one of them, the gender-neutral one.

This report of youth mental health organisation Jigsaw, by Prof Barbara Dooley and her research team in UCD’s Psychology department, was launched last week.

This report provides a rich seam of evidence that is painstakingly sex- disaggregated and indeed other intersectional traits that might give you a different experience of the world, because the world treats you differently.

Some of these differences are so stark it is questionable whether it is correct to subsume these differences under the generic heading ‘young people’ — it is certainly not helpful.

From our standpoint, the starkest statistic in this report is about the people aged 18-25, who consume pornography weekly. Some 17% of females in the survey did so weekly and 73% of the males.

But under that disparity is the even more stark evidence of impact.

The study found young women who consume pornography in this manner “were more likely to be in the very severe category of depression”, whereas no such pattern was visible for their male counterparts.

For RCNI, this finding should not surprise us. After all, pornography is, in fact, predominantly sexualised images of men being sexually violent and degrading towards women for pleasure. Can we be surprised that women frequently exposed to this are depressed?

It is possible that the young women did not become severely depressed through their frequent viewing of relentless misogyny, as cause and effect are not distinguished in this statistic. A possibility is that the young women were already severely depressed before starting a habit that their mentally-well counterparts resisted.

This is an even more damning explanation for this statistic.

Unfortunately, it also means that young men choose to consume this weekly dose of misogyny without any measurable significant mental ill-health to begin with and without the significant negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

While both females and males who consumed pornography regularly have lowered body-esteem, the sex-based disparities remain stacked in one direction. The logical conclusion is that young men’s world view and prospects are relatively undisturbed by this exposure to pornography. Their world is already one where violent misogyny is normal.

And it is. The same survey found that 1 in 4 women (aged 18-25) reported being raped.

Over half (56%) of young women reported that they had been touched against their will or without their consent, with 25% of the women reporting being forced or pressured to have sex, or in other words rape, as against 23% and 10% of men respectively. The survey does not tell us what sex the person perpetrating the non-consensual touching or sex was.

The women who experienced non-consensual sexual touching were also more likely to be in the very severe range of depression or anxiety. The men were not.

Throughout this report we see both young boys and girls mental health indicators plummeting as they move through puberty into adulthood, but significantly more so for girls on almost every count including suicide attempts, self-harm, body-esteem, and perceived personal competency.

The WHO defines mental wellbeing as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

When your ‘normal stresses of life’ include a one in four chance of being raped, is anxiety, low self-esteem, and severe depression not a normal response?

For young men, it was only for the 10% of young men who reported rape that there was a correlation with mental ill-health, with 24% being in the severe range of anxiety.

For women who were raped, the corresponding number experiencing severe anxiety was 40%.

For the 75% of women who had not been raped, 30% experience a severe range of anxiety nonetheless (11% for men) — representing the white noise of anxiety that is part of the ordinary and normal, life-limiting experience of being female in this world.

For boys and young men, we might conclude that for the majority, men’s violence against women does not disturb their world view or their capacity to ‘realise their own potential’ and make meaningful “contributions to their community”.

For girls and women, we bear it and we become mentally unwell under its burden.

And if we do not sex-disaggregate the data and discussion, we will not see this and we will be passive when it comes to making a change.

Clíona Saidléar PhD, Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) executive director.

Rate my rape list: ‘I’m angry at the silence of the men of Ireland’

In the wake of the ‘rate my rape’ list on a school wall, Dr Cliona Saidlear says we have to talk about rape culture in Ireland.

I’M ANGRY. I’VE been a professional working on sexual violence almost continuously since I graduated with a PhD on war. I have learned not to get angry.

Instead, I have learned to breathe. One breath, another, until my reactions to yet another instance of misogyny, abuse and violence are fanned into a quiet, infinitesimally slow burning rage. A rage so still that unless you look very closely you won’t even notice.

I pass for reasonable, most of the time – but today I’m angry.

A list of names

We’ve discovered that a boy, maybe more than one, wrote a list of girls’ names on the wall of a toilet cubicle in the boys’ bathrooms in their school and asked other boys which girl they were going to rape. That boy or other boys (how many?), laid a neat row of ticks beside the chosen girls’ names.

One boy, as the list of ticks grew, it is said informed the girl at the top of the list that she should be pleased she had the most ‘likes’. As teenage popularity contests go this seems like a dystopia that is hard to beat.

Why? Some will ask what we should do to fix it? Some will shrug because this is just the way it is. Boys will be boys.


The day before an elder statesman of rugby had gone on publicly funded radio to tell us that what the lads, the ones in the Belfast trial, said on Whatsapp and what they got up to that now infamous night was just ‘silliness’.

For many of us listening it was a startling insight into a world of entitlement we had almost forgotten existed.

The school has responded immediately and they appear to have done a good job. They have engaged the whole of the school, including the parents, mobilised in supporting all the children involved and addressing the unacceptability of this attitude and behaviour.

But this was after the fact and they had no blueprint for dealing with this normalising of misogynist violence.

I’m angry, but not with those boys. I’m angry at all the messages boys receive all their lives, through our culture and the words, omissions, silence or examples set for them, the stories they hear, the men they watch on television, the pornography they consume that tells them that how to be men is by hurting women.

Silence of good men

I’m also angry at the relative silence (with a few exceptions) of the famous, great and good men of Ireland. It’s hard to understand this silence. Why isn’t this their business?

We can change this. We must. We can choose to look critically at how we are as men and women and other, at what we expect of ourselves and each other. We can transform to create a kinder, more respectful society for all, but only if we engage honestly and compassionately and not retreat into our rage and defensive indignation.

It’s time to acknowledge rape culture so that we can deal with it proactively. Rape is everyone’s business. Our silence won’t change this culture. But our engagement and our actions will.

We owe it to our boys and our girls.

Dr Cliona Saidlear is Executive Director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland.


HIQA Report reveals Tusla dysfunction in responding to reports of risks of sexual violence to children

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) welcoming the HIQA report on Tusla’s handling of retrospective reporting supported Minister Zappone’s plan for immediate structures to action the recommendations and calls for child-centred and survivor-centred action.

Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘what survivors of past sexual violence often want is to know that no child will be harmed by the person who committed these crimes against themselves. It is reassuring and empowering to know that there is an agency and a set of professionals who are ensuring that what you, the survivor, knows is making a difference. This child protection is the intention of retrospective reporting and as survivors have been telling us, HIQA now confirms, it is not consistency happening.

For those survivors who have given their story to Tusla, it is heart-breaking. The catastrophic lack of social workers in Tusla, the absence of specialisation for social workers in sexual violence and the poor fit between a social worker’s responsibility and the skills required to handle retrospective reporting all adds up to deliver failure to survivors of sexual violence and to children.

It is also clear that the legislative basis to support Tusla’s work in child protection under the Child Care Act is flawed. What is described in the HIQA report is as much an inevitable outcome of poor laws as it is of lack of resources and inappropriate practice. RCNI are calling on government:

  • to prioritise the reform of the Child Care Act 1991 which is currently under review,
  • to set up a multiagency guidance committee to develop shared practice guidance across relevant professionals and agencies such as exists for SATUs,
  • to redouble efforts to develop co-location of child protection responses and to examine the development of stand-alone retrospective reporting child protection co-location responses,
  • To require adequate sexual violence training for all general social workers and require specialisation for those working in this area,
  • To ensure appropriate oversight and clinical governance of any outsourcing of child protection assessments,
  • To examine the location of adult sexual violence responses within child protection services.

For information:
Clíona Saidléar
087 2196447

The Eighth Amendment: Letter printed in the Irish Times 17th May 2018

Dear Sir,

Many female survivors of sexual violence talk to us about how difficult all matter to do with their fertility, sexual and reproductive health are for them because of their experience of rape. This can be a lifelong struggle for women following the trauma of sexual violence. Making this bearable for survivor’s starts by ensuring that everything that happens to their bodies is with their informed and full consent.

In Rape Crisis we believe everyone has a role in supporting survivors to restore their sense that they matter and that their yes matters. But the 8th amendment says the opposite. It says that a woman’s consent about what happens to her body is conditional.

The hard cases of the approximately 5% of fertile aged girls and women who are pregnant after rape are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact of the 8th on survivors and all women and girls.

The truth is the 8th amendment, whether a survivor of rape is pregnant or not, whether they choose to terminate or continue with the pregnancy, codifies a culture of disregarding women’s consent over their bodies. Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) are calling for a Yes vote, not only to ensure those pregnant after rape can be supported at home and without stigma, but also so that our Constitution unambiguously upholds the dignity and rights of women, many of whom will be survivors of sexual violence.

Dr Clíona Saidléar
RCNI Executive Director

Rape survivors need the law on their side

The principle that should inform all support for a rape survivor is that nothing after the crime, especially to their bodies, happens without their consent. When a survivor is pregnant after rape, the same principle stands.

The polls consistently show that the majority of Irish people agree that rape survivors need compassionate and non-judgmental access to abortion. This cannot happen unless this country repeals the Eighth Amendment.

In the Rape Crisis Network we know that survivors make every choice imaginable regarding their pregnancy. Their emotions and reasoning are as varied as each and every rape survivor is in their individual contexts.

We want these people to be given judgment-free access to healthcare professionals who can ensure that they have the necessary information. Abortion will by no means be every survivor’s choice.

Our hope is that they will be surrounded by their loved ones who can support them in this traumatic time. The situation under the Eighth, in which a rape survivor may make decisions in isolation, without adequate information, in ways that are unsafe and unsupported, are the opposite of the type of response we want to offer.

Currently, if a rape survivor chooses to have an abortion she will either, illegally and with no medical support, order abortion pills online and take them, or travel abroad. This secretive and in itself potentially traumatising process will almost certainly mean that the survivor will be separated from their families and friends as well as from their trusted healthcare providers.

The government has said that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed it will seek to legislate for wider access to abortion. There will be no “rape clause”. Instead there will be abortion on request up to 12 weeks.

Asking survivors to prove the rape happened in order for them to have access to abortion is not workable. It is notoriously hard to prove rape in the courts and the process can take years. Neither is there any way to medically prove rape.

Any attempt to make a survivor prove that they were raped will only punish, shame and fail them. No “rape testing” regime will deliver what the majority of Irish people want.

If the Eighth Amendment is repealed a 12-week abortion-on-request law is the only viable way to provide access to the procedure for survivors of rape. It will also be a powerful message from us, to all these survivors, that we trust them.

Clíona Saidléar is executive director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Published in The Times on 3rd of May 2018