Wednesday 23 January 2019

'Imagine you have been attacked in Westport and need to travel to Sligo hospital' - rape survivor in letter to Taoiseach on lack of support units

Dominique Meehan (25) waived her right to anonymity
Dominique Meehan (25) waived her right to anonymity
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A rape survivor has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to highlight the lack of treatment and support for victims after she had to travel from Dublin to Mullingar because the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in the capital was not available.

Dominique Meehan (25) also told how she couldn't drink liquids for six hours until forensic swabs were taken from her mouth because she had been orally raped.

Ms Meehan, from Co Donegal, was attending a convention at a Dublin hotel when she was raped by Keith Hearne. She waived her right to anonymity after he was last year jailed for 12 years.

The Central Criminal Court was told that Hearne had brought a "rape kit" with a prop knife, handcuffs, mask and condoms.

Hearne, from Tallaght, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning the victim at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Blanchardstown, Dublin, on July 4, 2015.

In her letter to Mr Varadkar, Ms Meehan highlighted a lack of SATUs, and the confusion surrounding the services available for survivors going through the justice system.

"It has become acceptable in Ireland that a survivor has to travel a maximum of two-and-a-half hours to reach a SATU. Imagine that you have been attacked in Westport and need to travel all the way to Sligo hospital to reach their SATU, sometimes not even in an ambulance," she wrote.

"You must sit in the dirty clothes that you have been attacked in, unable to drink, sore in areas you have no right to be sore in. I myself, having been attacked in Dublin, was sent to Mullingar as there were no SATUs available in Dublin, and wasn't allowed to drink for six hours even though I had been orally raped.

"No SATUs (available) in Dublin? A county with more than a million people to serve. One in four women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime and there is only one SATU in the Rotunda. It's utterly astounding that this has gone on for so long."

She also highlighted problems faced by survivors going through the justice system.

"I eventually gave up on trying to receive court accompaniment. I was given, I think, seven or eight different leaflets about this service, all with different information, and never a phone number or an email address."

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said it was not right that the Dublin SATU was not available when Ms Meehan was attacked.

"There are six SATUs in the country, and it could be argued that we need more, but I think the first step is to make sure that the six we have are made available on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week."

Irish Independent

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