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Lockdown sex violence victims 'were afraid to tell'

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Some victims of sexual violence were reluctant to report it after they attended parties during lockdown and felt they were breaking Covid-19 rules.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) saw a surge in callers reporting abuse when lockdown restrictions were eased, going from three to 47 between mid-July and mid-August.

Speaking to the Herald, DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell said they do not judge those seeking help and reminded them "it's never your fault".

Referring to cases of sexual assault or rape during the national lockdown, she said that some people still feel "as though they weren't maybe behaving perfectly, that they couldn't report the harm done to them.

"They felt they weren't even able to come forward to us. And then in July/August there was a surge in contacts.

"Out of the 47, I can say anecdotally there were a couple of dozen who felt they didn't have the right to look for support because they took an unnecessary risk (by going to a party).

"And we are asking people 'please don't feel like that'. We are not here to judge, it's never your fault," she said.

"There are no circumstances where it's okay to sexually assault or rape someone. If you are a victim, there are services available. Our helpline is confidential and non judgemental."

The DRCC launched its annual report for 2019 today and fears that 2020 may "mark a turn for the worse".

"Victims of sexual violence are telling us about high levels of anger among abusers," Ms Blackwell said.

"Unfortunately the safest place for an abuser to vent that anger is in the home, on those nearest to them, with less fear of consequences."

The centre has also witnessed a dramatic loss in fundraising, with all events cancelled during the pandemic.

Support

More than 14,000 callers sought support from the DRCC's national helpline last year.

"While we are glad to support as many as we can, our support, dependent on the public fundraising resources we can bring to it, is no substitute for adequate structured support for victims of these most intimate of crimes," Ms Blackwell said.

As the pandemic presented problems for the operation of the crisis centre, a new system was developed last month to allow for limited face-to-face support and video support is to be arranged.

DRCC operates a national 24-hour helpline 1800 778888 for callers in any part of the country with no reduction in service.

Herald