Survivors of sexual violence can wait well over a year to be assigned a counsellor as chronic underfunding results in long waiting lists, rape crisis centres have said.
As the Irish Examiner reports, regional centres are facing an “emergency situation”, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland said, with demand for services around the country increasing exponentially.
The network’s 2020 statistics report states there were 15,194 appointments for counselling and support in 2020, up 26 per cent on the previous year, and 13,068 helpline contacts, up 22 per cent.
Over the past decade, there has been a 100 per cent increase in contacts to helplines, a 63 per cent increase in appointments provided by the centres, and a 30 per cent increase in the number of survivors and supporters attending the facilities.
However, the seven network member rape crisis centres detailed in the report currently have 332 people on their waiting lists, and this figure is rising.
Waiting lists vary between centres, with some at eight weeks and others exceeding a year.
The centres said they endeavour to ensure there is no waiting list for those seeking support in the immediate aftermath of a rape.
The report states that underfunding is “leading to an inability to train, recruit and retain counsellors resulting in long waiting lists for survivors in urgent need of support”.
The lack of resources for training and recruitment also results in the sector “losing out on valuable expertise”, the report says.
Local helplines are frequently being used by survivors to replace or supplement a planned programme of counselling, the report states, adding that these services are “dependent on annual funding that is uncertain, inadequate and unstable”.
“Our fundraising has been decimated by the pandemic with the result that our centres now face fast dwindling bank balances,” the report says.
Anne Scully, manager of the Waterford rape and sexual abuse centre, said its current waiting list is at least three months long, and often exceeds six months.
“We are operating a waiting list which is growing and we are getting calls from people who are in crisis, and we try to help them as best we can, but resources are limited in that regard,” she said.
“It’s hugely difficult to say to somebody that you have got all the courage up to come in and begin to face all that has happened to you, and then we’re unfortunately saying you won’t be able to do that for some months.”