News Colette Browne

Friday 22 August 2014

It's simply not acceptable that rape victims have been sacrificed to save a paltry €20,000

Colette Brown

Published 21/05/2014 | 02:30

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Fiona Neary, director of the RCNI, is aware of budget crisis. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fiona Neary, director of the RCNI, is aware of budget crisis. Photo: Steve Humphreys

As part of the most recent round of efficiencies in the health service, rapists have agreed to rape for just 11 months of the year. The surprise arrangement came to light on Monday when it was revealed that rapists in the midwest would be taking one month off later this year.

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Cognisant of the strain on the public finances, and the consequent need for the Government to continually gouge money from services for the most vulnerable, rapists will refrain from raping anyone in Tipperary, Clare and Limerick in September.

By decree of some bureaucratic pen pusher, there will be no sexual violence, of any description, in the region for approximately 31 days.

So, you see, there is absolutely nothing to worry about following the announcement that Rape Crisis Midwest will be suspending its services because of a funding shortfall for at least a month later this year.

Local rapists may not have officially come on board, yet. But the belief is that once the service is cut, demand for the service will also automatically cease to exist.

In fact, it is hoped that similar arrangements will be rolled out to other areas of the country in the near future, when budgets in rape crisis centres in the west, south and east also inevitably begin to buckle.

Now, some of you may be a bit dubious, about rapists' ability to stick to an arbitrary timetable, but don't fret. The health service is renowned for this kind of innovative blue-sky thinking.

The plan – from the same people who brought you a mental health system without an after-hours service and who routinely write to parents to see if their children "still have Down Syndrome" – is foolproof. What could possibly go wrong?

True, there are no other services for rape victims in the midwest. No other state support. No safety net. But providing a service for victims of one of the most traumatic crimes on the statue book 11 months a year will simply have to do.

After all, how many rape victims can there really be in just one month? One? Two? Five? Ten?

Certainly not enough to justify an allocation of €20,000 so the doors of the centre can stay open.

It may not seem like a huge amount – in the context of an overall health budget of €13,120,000,000 – but organisations like the rape crisis centre must stick to their budgets, even if they're nowhere near enough to provide a service.

They simply have to cope when annual budgets are slashed from €391,000 in 2008 to just €339,000 in 2014.

Even if there is a 28pc increase in demand for counselling, a 38pc rise in helpline contacts and a 116pc increase in the number of victims accompanied though court proceedings during the same period.

It should be remembered that Rape Crisis Midwest already collects €60,000 in donations from the public every year.

Members will just have to go out and shake a few more buckets and sell a few more raffle tickets and come up with the additional money themselves.

So what if there's already a six-month waiting list for long-term counselling for victims of child and adult rape and abuse, in the midwest? A couple of more months won't kill them. Maybe.

The mantra of this Government needs to be remembered. We need to take the tough decisions and do less with more.

And who better to bear the brunt of those tough decisions than rape victims who make a hugely difficult decision to seek help only to discover that there's none out there when they do.

Clearly, we need to stop molly-coddling rape victims and pretending that the State actually gives a damn and cares enough to fund a basic counselling and support service for them.

Nationwide, rape crisis centres received €4.5m last year but the director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Fiona Neary, has warned that €7m is needed to protect frontline services.

She said that unless additional funding is forthcoming, Rape Crisis Midwest would not be the only centre closing its doors this year.

But where is the Government expected to find an extra €2.5m a year? Their hands are tied. There is no additional money out there.

We need to keep our priorities in order, like providing politicians with pre-paid Oireachtas envelopes at a cost of €2.7m a year.

Imagine if politicians were expected to pay for their own post from the €16m in funding that political parties and independent TDs already receive from the State?

No, much better that politicians get the money so they can continue to brag to their constituents about all of their many achievements in office – like the escalating homeless crisis, the removal of medical cards from the chronically ill and the abandonment of victims of sexual violence.

Irish Independent

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