Sustaining the Sector, Respecting the Survivor: RCNI Publishes Annual Statistics 2020

On Thursday 7 October,  Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) released its Annual Statistics 2020 report.

RCNI represents seven Rape Crisis Centres around Ireland and collates annual statistics on who is accessing RCC helplines, appointments, and accompaniments, why they are using services, and what kinds of sexual abuse they have been subjected to.  

The findings for 2020 indicate that regional Rape Crisis Centres are facing an emergency situation in which chronic underfunding is leading to an inability to train, recruit and retain counsellors resulting in long waiting lists for survivors in urgent need of support, in which local helplines whose existence rely solely on fundraising are frequently being used by survivors to replace or supplement a planned programme of counselling and in which these essential services are dependent on annual funding that is uncertain, inadequate and unstable. 

Said RCNI National Data Coordinator Elaine Mears: 

‘This data indicates that regional helplines became a lifeline for many survivors during the pandemic. We found a 22% increase in helpline usage with 13,068 people contacting these services and, most tellingly, a 71% increase in time spent on helpline calls. Furthermore, the intensity and length of the calls indicate that, rather than seeking information and referrals, the helplines are being used to access counselling by people carrying a high level of trauma. Year on year our Centres have seen increases in demand: in the last 10 years we have seen a 100% increase in contacts to Helplines, a 63% increase in appointments provided by RCCs, and a 30% increase in the number of survivors and supporters attending RCCs – these figures indicate that when seeking help people want their first point of contact to be local and that regional services provide an indispensable and integral service to their communities.’ 

Said RCNI Executive Director Dr Cliona Saidlear: 

‘While 2020 was an incredibly traumatic year that no doubt triggered a surge in demand for support from survivors, these figures are part of a pattern of increased need without a concomitant increase in funding. Our sector is consistently expected to deliver supports at lower costs: after a decade of austerity, by 2019 we were still struggling to reach 2008 levels of funding. We now call on the Government to commit to a programme of multiannual funding so that Rape Crisis Centres can bolster their essential helpline services, can train more specialised counsellors to reduce waiting lists and can offer survivors the help and support that they need and that they deserve.’ 

In spite of one in three women and one in four men being victims of sexual violence in their lifetime, in spite of Ireland’s human rights obligations under the Istanbul Convention, in spite of a global pandemic that made the lives of women and girls even more unsafe, the Irish state still needs to do more to respond adequately to the needs of victims of sexual violence.

The full report is available here.