Sunday 17 December 2017

One in eight too drunk to know if they were sexually assaulted

Rise in number treated by hospital's special unit

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

MORE than one in eight patients seen at a major sex assault treatment unit last year had taken so much drink they were unsure if they had been attacked.

The Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital, one of six such units in the country, last year treated 341 men and women, 26 more than in 2009.

However, 41 patients said they could not be sure if they had been assaulted because they had drunk so much alcohol.

The unit's annual report said 235 (68.9pc) had consumed alcohol in the 12 hours prior to the assault and over half of these had consumed more than four units.

The unit's medical director, Dr Maeve Eogan, said 25 patients had taken at least 15 units and eight were not sure how much they had drunk.

Most patients came to the SATU within seven days of being sexually assaulted and five patients had disclosed long-term abuse. Ten people had to be sent to a hospital emergency department to be treated for other injuries.

October was the unit's busiest month and Saturday the busiest day.

Although the SATU only provides its services to people over the age of 14 it had to arrange care for six younger girls as acute care in a children's hospital could not be arranged.

The report said 142 of the patients were students, 85 were employed and 105 were out of work. The majority were single.

In most cases the victims were attacked by one person and in 128 cases the assailant was a stranger. In another 22 cases the attacker was a partner or ex-partner. A family member was implicated in 13 assaults.

Violence

The highest number of assaults was among women aged 18-25. There were 48 men treated for assault, the largest group of whom were aged 25-35 while three males were over the age of 45.

The report indicated that 54 of the patients did not want to report the assault to gardai, an increase of 21 people who wanted non-disclosure since 2009.

"This increase in numbers is unlikely to reflect an increase in sexual violence but more likely to represent an increase in people seeking care and attention following such an incident which hopefully will have a positive impact in terms of recovery," it said.

The Rotunda unit's annual report stated that one of its next priorities would be to develop and standardise facilities for the storage of forensic evidence from patients who are not yet sure if they will report the incident.

The SATU can currently only take forensic samples if an incident is reported to gardai and a garda is present at the unit.

Forensic evidence deteriorates quickly over time so a proper storage facility would allow the unit to hold on to the samples while a patient decides if he or she will report the attack to gardai.

"Should she or he subsequently report, the evidence can be transferred to the Forensic Science Laboratory. Such a facility would increase the options available to our patients and enable provision of a responsive service."

Irish Independent

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