Rape crisis centre stretched to limit as teen victims on rise
A RAPE crisis centre has been inundated with calls for crisis counselling – with more than half of those affected under the age of 18.
The Galway Rape Crisis Centre has seen a surge in requests for immediate counselling, with a worrying rise in the numbers of teens contacting the service.
"We have 23 people on our crisis waiting list and we simply can't get to them," said Helen Mortimer, executive director of the Galway Rape Crisis Centre.
"More than 50pc of them are under 18. We're seeing a worrying increase in the numbers of referrals we're getting from a younger population."
Ms Mortimer said the service always attempted to clear its crisis list immediately because of the seriousness of the calls.
"We've always been able to get it down to five or six people very quickly, because we know how vital it is that these people get help immediately.
"This is the first time we haven't been able to clear it, and it's a real worry," she added.
Ms Mortimer said that a further 25 people were on the centre's long term waiting list for counselling, with a waiting time of up to six months.
"We have one person who has been waiting 18 months to see us. Because we've been struggling with the crisis cases, these clients are being forced to wait even longer.
"In terms of cutbacks, day to day it is having a huge impact because resources are so tight. Every month we struggle to make ends meet and to meet the needs of our clients," she added.
The service also deals with more than 200 helpline calls every month, and this number has been rising "constantly" since January, according to Ms Mortimer. The centre is also struggling to cope with up to 250 appointments requested every month.
The service received a lifeline last week thanks to a €24,000 donation from the Manuela Riedo Foundation, which the centre has ring-fenced to deal with the waiting lists.
The foundation was set up in honour of Swiss student Manuela, who was 17 when she was murdered by Gerald Barry in Galway in 2007. Barry is currently serving a life sentence for Manuela's murder and for the repeated rape of a young French student, also in 2007.
"Only for that money I don't know how we would cope," Ms Mortimer said. "Our hope is if things stay static we will be able to take 15 to 16 people off the waiting lists."
The service is also struggling to fund its education programmes in schools. "If we don't keep up the prevention and early intervention work, we might as well close our doors because all we are doing is firefighting," said Ms Mortimer.