Rape crisis centres face "emergency situation" as survivors wait a year for counselling
Wait times vary between centres from eight weeks to well over a year.
Survivors of sexual violence can be left waiting well over a year for access to a counsellor, according to rape crisis centres.
Per the Irish Examiner, chronic underfunding and an increase in demand for services has resulted in long waiting lists and an “emergency situation” across regional centres.
A report from the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland show there were 15,194 appointments for counselling and support and 13,068 helpline contacts in 2020. Both of these marked an increase of over 20% on the previous year.
There has also been a 100% increase in contacts to helplines, a 63% increase in appointments provided by the centres, and a 30% increase in the number of survivors and supporters availing of services provided over the past decade.
The seven member rape crisis centres listed in the report currently have 332 people on their waiting lists, with wait times varying between centres from eight weeks to well over a year.
According to the report, underfunding is “leading to an inability to train, recruit and retain counsellors resulting in long waiting lists for survivors in urgent need of support.”
“Our fundraising has been decimated by the pandemic with the result that our centres now face fast dwindling bank balances,” it states.
This has forced local helplines to be often used as a substitute for planned programmes of counselling, but the report says that these services are “dependent on annual funding that is uncertain, inadequate and unstable.”
Rape Crisis Network of Ireland executive director Clíona Sáidlear told the Examiner that while 2020 was “incredibly traumatic” and triggered a surge in demand, 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,” she said.
“We now call on the Government to commit to a programme of multi-annual funding."
A spokesperson for Tusla said State funding for sexual violence/rape crisis services has increased by 32% since 2016 and that the agency is "actively engaged" with the centres "around solutions to ease service pressures".