Sunday 15 September 2019

Garda errors 'revictimise' survivors of rape - report

Drew Harris: The new Garda Commissioner praised the centre. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Drew Harris: The new Garda Commissioner praised the centre. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Warning: Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

"Poorly handled" investigations can result in the "revictimisation" of rape survivors, with risk of withdrawal from the justice system, the Rape Crisis Centre warned ahead of its annual report today.

Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) chief executive Noeline Blackwell highlighted a lack of investigators and too few specialist units to deal with sexual crimes.

Ms Blackwell said: "When you combine this with the systemic difficulties of our court system in such trials, it is little wonder there's such a high rate of drop-out between reporting and trial and even a very low rate of reporting."

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday praised the "victim-centred" services at the RCC, adding that it was "a privilege to be present to launch this report which shows the vital work being done by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre".

Mr Harris said the group "helps to inform the work of An Garda Síochána and other agencies dealing with these victims".

The RCC has hired a new worker to focus on accompaniment and support justice services.

But more work is to be done within the investigative and legal system to secure justice for victims, the RCC said.

The RCC 24-hour helpline witnessed a 4pc increase in calls and a 10pc rise in those accessing therapy in 2017.

Nearly 48pc of helpline contacts related to adult rape, compared to 41pc in 2016.

Specialist staff took 12,855 calls - an increase of almost 500 on the previous year.

Therapy was provided to 550 survivors, a rise of 10pc on 2016, after additional funding was provided from Túsla, the child and family agency.

Staff accompanied 251 people to forensic and medical examinations at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

And 53 days of support were provided to those making a criminal complaint at garda stations or in court.

The annual report describes the centre's training work as playing a role in achieving "societal change" and equipping others to deal with those who have suffered sexual violence.

Ms Blackwell said the RCC was "pleased" the report comes in line with this campaign and she felt it important to highlight most sexual violence affects females.

She also complimented the "good work" carried out by gardaí who are fully trained in the investigation of sexual offences.

The centre delivered 3,883 appointments in 2017, mostly in Dublin City Centre but also in Coolock, the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy, and in Tallaght.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this report, contact the Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour national helpline on 1800 77 88 88.

Irish Independent

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