Wednesday 16 October 2019

More people now attend busiest sex assault unit

But over one-third chose not to report alleged offence to gardaí

Scene: A lane off Winetavern Street, Christchurch, Dublin, where an alleged sexual assault took place recently. Picture: Arthur Carron
Scene: A lane off Winetavern Street, Christchurch, Dublin, where an alleged sexual assault took place recently. Picture: Arthur Carron
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than one-third of all people who attended the country's largest sexual assault unit for treatment chose not to report the alleged sexual offence to gardaí.

Some 327 patients attended the unit in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital in 2017, which was up from the 289 patients recorded in 2016.

The figures, which were contained in the unit's annual report, showed that women and men ranging in age from 14 to 70 years of age sought help from the unit.

Some 91pc of the patients who attended were female, the report noted.

Some 36pc of those patients chose not to report the alleged offence to gardaí, but a further 26 patients chose to avail of a new service that allows the unit to store forensic evidence for one year while they consider making a formal complaint to gardaí.

If they choose to make a complaint, the evidence is released to gardaí.

The annual report said that since 2016 "we have had a facility for secure storage of forensic evidence for those who are uncertain about their reporting intentions".

"This enables patients to come to an informed decision regarding whether or not they wish to report the incident to An Garda Síochána," it said.

The unit, where Dr Maeve Eogan is the director, has had problems providing some weekend cover due to staffing problems and shared services with the Mullingar unit.

It meant a number of alleged victims had to make the journey from Dublin to Mullingar.

The report said that earlier presentation was best for appropriate care and collection of forensic evidence.

Of the 297 cases where the incident was reported to have taken place in the Republic, 230 happened in Dublin city and county.

There were 11 other counties implicated in reports.

Eight in 10 said the alleged incident took place between 8am and 8pm.

The majority attended for care during daytime hours, but one-third sought help out-of-hours.

The unit has found difficulties recruiting forensic medical examiners. Traditionally these came from GPs, but they are now under such pressure it is problematic.

Emergency contraception was given to 144 of 243 women seen within 120 hours of the incident.

All were also offered follow-up screening for sexually transmitted diseases and 239 women accepted this offer.

But only 158 returned for the screening.

"Such low return rates are not uncommon, both nationally and internationally and have encouraged continued provision of routine prophylaxis [preventative treatment] for chlamydia at the time of the patient's initial attendance.

"The rate of chlamydia has fallen precipitously since the introduction of routine prophylaxis.

"All patients are also offered HIV prophylaxis on-site if required following risk assessment.

"In 2017, 36 patients received post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and none of these patients acquired HIV as a result of the incident."

The report said although its remit is for an adult service over for patients over 14, it provided care for five young girls under the age of 14 years

These were instances where acute care in the paediatric service could not be arranged.

Irish Independent

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