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Covid-19: Reports of Rape and Child Sex Abuse Rise Sharply During Pandemic

The number of people reporting experiences of rape and child sex abuse increased sharply during the first four months of the coronavirus pandemic, figures from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) show.

The number of survivors contacting rape crisis centres for counselling was 98 per cent higher between March and the end of June than in the same period last year, the figures confirm. The number of calls to RCNI helplines increased by 23 per cent in the same period to more than 4,000.

The figures are taken from six rape crisis centres across the State and feature in an RCNI report published on Monday.

The report says the amount of time survivors spent on calls to the RCNI’s helplines increased by 83 per cent in the four-month period. The number of counselling appointments provided by rape crisis centres rose by 30 per cent, with 4,734 sessions provided over the phone or via video call.

The largest increase in numbers contacting RCNI helplines came as the country introduced coronavirus restrictions on non-essential movement in March, with a 63 per cent rise in calls when compared with the same period last year.

Suspending counselling

The report says that in some cases survivors were forced to suspend their counselling sessions “due to their living arrangements making it impossible for them to continue” while the advice to stay at home was in place.

The organisation said it had seen a “significant increase” in children and young people reporting abuse to its helplines during the four-month period. The number of children aged between 12 and 16 contacting it increased from 126 between March and June of last year to 167 in that period this year. Calls from young people aged between 17 and 23 were up by 17.8 per cent, to 614 in total.

People aged 40 to 49 were the age group with the highest year-to-year increase in calls during the four-month period, with the number of calls from this group rising from 272 calls to 760. The RCNI said this was likely “due to the lockdown measures triggering past trauma in survivors”.

The centres received reports of sexual violence occurring during the lockdown, but the report said that “we fear this number does not reflect the reality and it will be some time before these victims feel ready to seek support”.

“We also found that child sexual violence is now increasingly filmed and circulated online,” the report said.

Ritual abuse

The organisation reported “a small but notable increase in survivors disclosing ritual abuse to counsellors during the Covid period”. Clíona Saidléar, RCNI executive director, said this referred to abuse that the perpetrator attempted to “justify with some sort of ritual”, which was often “pseudo-religious or Satanic” in nature.

The report warns it is likely that the increased demand for counselling services will continue, and says there is evidence of “suppressed need which is yet to emerge”. The pressure would “stretch the resources of the sector” and additional funding would be needed in the Government’s next budget, it added.

Of the survivors contacting helplines, 55 per cent disclosed that they had been raped, and one-quarter reported childhood sex abuse. This figure includes adults disclosing historical abuse that took place when they were children, and young people reporting current abuse.

On average, women were 10 times more likely to avail of rape crisis centre supports than men, the report states. It also found that small numbers of trans individuals were accessing supports.

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Article by Jack Power from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/covid-19-reports-of-rape-and-child-sex-abuse-rise-sharply-during-pandemic-1.4308307#.XxVej5je0y0.twitter

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