Wednesday 23 October 2019

David new CEO of Sligo Rape Crisis Centre

Developing services to less accessible areas will be one of his goals

Ciara Galvin

Sligo Rape Crisis Centre has become the first organisation of its kind nationally to appoint a man as its CEO.

For David Madden, a psychotherapist and supervisor with over 30 years experience, he says he is looking forward to the challenge of developing the centre, and believes it is important for more men to be employed in services for women in general.

Asked how he feels in relation to being a man heading up a Rape Crisis Centre for the first time, Mr Madden spoke to The Sligo Champion about gender bias in a wider context.

"That's the thing about gender bias, people are afraid to question it. I ran a women's treatment centre for a few years and that probably helped, then I could say I had good insight into women's issues. Women's issues are quite different to mens, but it doesn't mean you have to be a woman to understand women's issues. You can understand that as a man," he explained.

Madden ran a 24-bed treatment centre for women in Dublin for eight years and cites this experience as giving him an in-depth insight into women's issues

"Very few men work in services for women, Women's Aid, women's refuges, etc. I don't know why,

"I think it's very positive that men work in them, because it provides a positive role model in services where the experience of the women would be predominently negative towards men."

Speaking about developing the service across Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan, Madden said his main goal is to bring the service to less accessible parts of the region and create awareness of what Sligo Rape Crisis Centre does.

"We have a branch in Carrick-On-Shannon and also a small branch in Manorhamilton, so we're looking to develop something to the east of here maybe over towards, Beltra, that way."

He continued, "If you look at a map of support networks there's an area there that's not really covered.

"It's a problem area but in terms of general services for everything it's not really serviced. That's a challenge."

The other challenge facing the centre is getting volunteers.

The centre relies heavily on volunteering and the new CEO explained that not everyone with good intentions of helping can give of their time.

"To be a counsellor here you can't just have good intentions, you have to be qualified and accredited and have Rape Crisis Centre training so getting volunteers is a bit of a challenge.

"We have a great team of volunteers, we have 15 at the moment."

Along with being a counselling service, Sligo Rape Crisis Centre provides telephone counselling, provide a helpline and do one-to-one counselling, along with group work for survivors.

"We also do practical stuff like we advocate for people, we help them make statements with the gardaí, help them attend court, meet solicitors.

"They might need a bit of moral support to do that or just a bit of help. We'd also deal with the Department of Justice with refugees. We also provide services to family and friends."

Madden stresses that it is not just victims of sexual assault or abuse, it can also be their family and friends who need help.

"If you knew someone who was assaulted and you might be upset or you want to help them we'd offer you support.

"We would help all kinds of people, we could have a mother and daughter, a father and son or a father and daughter.

"People who have close relationships we would do some relationship counselling because they both could be affected."

Discussing the issue of rape and sexual assault the CEO admitted that it still is not widely talked about and is still in a way a 'taboo'.

"Usually, when people find out about rape or sexual assault is when it's in the news. With abuse often people don't say anything to anybody for years.

"The average amount of time it takes people to report abuse is over ten years so that means they're holding on to stuff and sometimes it's 20 years or they never disclose it."

"Last year, we provided a service to about 200 individuals and about 450 on the telephone helpline and about 200 in one-to-one counselling.

"It's quite a big demand and a lot of counselling hours and a lot of hours answering the phone."

Talking about funding, Mr Madden acknowledged state agency Tusla which provides the majority of the centre's funding and especially praised the Domestic Sexual Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) department at Tusla.

"We get a lot of funding from Tusla, locally Mary Roche and Ann Ryan have been a great help in particular. They are very supportive of all that we do.

The dedication of the board, volunteers, counsellors nad staff at the centre means we can provide this service for people who need it most."

According to figures released by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, Sligo Rape Crisis Centre (serving Leitrim and West Cavan) received €252,550 from Tusla last year. To bridge funding gaps of 20% of the centre's operational costs, the centre uses private funding, fundraising and donations.

Asked if there has been a dramatic increase in the demand on services, the CEO said the first two quarters of this year compared to 2018 show a 5% increase.

"Incrementally over the years it's gone up and that's partly to do with awareness, like the MeToo campaign and things like that, they have a big impact on services like ours, they raise the general awareness of everyone."

Madden clarified that just because demands on services go up year-on-year doesn't mean that is down to an increase of sexual assaults or rape, but overall, can be down to an increase of awareness.

However, addressing the issue of increases, the CEO believes that these have probably gone up.

In terms of a wider issue around why incidents of sexual abuse and rape take place, Madden is of the opinion that it is down to 'how people are viewed'.

"If people are objectified in media then that dissociates them from the other. If kids are objectifying other kids for instance, or males objectifying females, or females objectifying males, it dissociates you from the other."

Madden also refers to Love Island and its superficiality.

"It's great entertainment but it's very much on the surface, it dissociates people and they are objectified."

He adds, "The problems that have caused sexual violence to happen in the first place are relational, it's about how people relate to each other. It's how one person views another, it can be male or female."

In relation to people being unsure of what to do if they have experienced a sexual assault or have been raped, or know of someone who may have, Madden simply says, 'Just give us a ring'.

"If in doubt, just pick up the phone."

Sligo Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted on freephone: 1800 750 780 or visit website at

Sligo Champion