UP to 3,000 calls a year are being missed by a rape crisis centre as it no longer has funding for vital helplines.
The Galway Rape Crisis Centre has revealed that demand for services is on the rise, but at the same time it has been forced to cut services due to repeated cuts to its annual budget.
Last year, the service received 2,935 calls, a 23pc increase on 2011. However, the helpline has now been forced to cut back its operating hours from 10am to 5.30pm to the shorter period of 10am to 2pm.
Executive director Helen Mortimer said she believed the service was missing thousands of calls because it was no longer available after 2pm.
"The increase in calls we saw was significant but because of budget cuts we can't run the same service," she said.
"We received almost 3,000 calls. I'd say we are missing that amount again. It takes a lot of courage to make that first call and without an answer, many won't feel able to do it again. All we can do is give the national helpline number."
The waiting list for counselling services currently stands at six months, a wait described as "totally unacceptable" by Ms Mortimer.
The annual report for 2012 showed that 48 cases were referred to the Galway Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. Over a third of these (39pc) were under the age of 18, a rise of 13pc on the previous two years.
Last year, 3,104 face-to-face counselling sessions took place at the centre, an increase on the 2011 figure of 3,006. The service also saw a significant increase in the number of men using the service, rising from 10pc in 2011 to 16pc last year.
The report also found that more than half the sexual assaults (53pc) were perpetrated by an acquaintance, 24pc by a stranger, 8pc by a family member or partner, while the identity of 14pc were not disclosed.
Ms Mortimer said that without additional funding from charities like the Manuela Riedo Foundation, they would struggle to provide the services they do. Funding from the foundation allowed the service to carry out 79 education workshops to 1,100 students throughout Galway in a bid to increase the awareness of sexual crime among the most at-risk category.
"We need to get away from 'victim blaming'. It is not because of what you did or what you were wearing and that is vital," she said.
The centre can be reached on its helpline at 1800-355355 or at www.galwayrcc.org.