The Dundalk based Rape Crisis North East (RCNE) have appealed to those impacted by rape and sexual violence to continue to access the vital supports they need.
'Our doors may be closed, but our services are still available to those who need us,' said Grace McArdle, manager of the RCNE.
She made the appeal as concerns grow that many women are in lockdown, perhaps with a partner and children, and find they no longer have the 'time and space' to access support services such as those provided by the Rape Crisis network.
'We have been adapting our services to the current environment, and counsellors are continuing to work remotely, with all of our appointments now carried out over the phone,' said Grace.
She explained that many of their clients are continuing with the work they had started with counsellors, and have spoken of their appreciation that services still remain available.
'But for others, lockdown had proved very difficult. Violence has increased significantly because of people being stuck at home together.'
She said it was 'now more important than ever' to reach out, adding that their helpline remains open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm (1800 21 21 22).
'There may be a safe, quiet spot you can find, maybe even sitting in the car, or driving somewhere to talk in privacy.'
Some of the more challenging situations presented in direct provision, where people are living in shared accommodation facilities, and struggle to find somewhere away from others to speak in confidence.
'We have had people on to us, saying that they don't want to take up our time during the Covid restrictions. But it's so important that people know we are hear for them, especially during this time.'
She stressed that the trauma of past, or indeed more recent experiences, does not fade, or be put on hold, even in the face of a national and global crisis.
'Again, it can be an even more difficult time for people now, so we are appealing directly to those who need us to reach out, we'll be here for you.'
The RCNE are, she admits, facing their own challenges at this time, such as the potential loss of the current building they are in at the Great Northern Brewery.
'Our landlord has been so good to us, and we have really been so glad to establish this as a base for our services for the region. But we are facing the challenge of our lease coming to an end next year, and it's going to be extremely difficult to find somewhere to accommodate our services.'
The RCNE are, like almost every organisation which relies on public support, looking into a year where they will have had zero fundraising to fall back on.
'We had so many events planned, which of course have all been cancelled. This really leaves us in an extremely difficult position, as we receive some core funding from Tusla, but have to make up the remaining vital funds ourselves.'
The service, she adds, also rely on the ongoing dedication and commitment of volunteers, which has been a defining factor in their response to the current pandemic.
'Our staff have been fantastic. We are just so fortunate to have such a fantastic team of people here.'
The Rape Crisis North East are now actively seeking donations to support their vital work.
To donate online, log on to their website www.rcne.ie for more information about their services, and to support their work, via Paypal.