DEMAND for rape crisis services in Limerick are up by 7% in the past year, but support groups are urging the Minister for Health to safeguard funding for these services in the next Budget.
Miriam Duffy, chairperson of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland and director of Rape Crisis Mid-west, said support groups for victims of sexual abuse are “literally at the ropes”.
Ms Duffy said the mid-west support group, which is based in Limerick, is well supported by the HSE, which provides 80% of their funding.
However, they are afraid that core funding will have an impact on all support groups, and she said some staff in Limerick may have to take one month off unpaid leave to balance the books for the rest of the year.
She said it is with reluctance that they are highlighting the state of their finances because they are afraid it might discourage people from coming forward.
“People often say to us maybe someone else needs this time [with a counsellor] more than me, but we don’t want to deter survivors from coming forward. People need to be encouraged to seek help, because the survivor’s mentality is that they are to blame for what has happened, which is completely untrue and so sad,” she said.
Ms Duffy said she has seen increase in demand for the services every year since she has been with the network since 2002.
Last year the number of people seeking support in Limerick rose to 194 clients, with over 2,700 hours of counselling provided.
In terms of those affected by sexual abuse who seek their support, she said clerical abuse is just “the tip of the iceberg”, as some 80% who have sought their support have experienced abuse from within their own family or friends.
Last year’s national 11% increase in demand is on top of a 9% increase in 2010.
In 2011 2,541 people took up counselling and support with 15 rape crisis centres throughout Ireland, with 20,727 hours of counselling and support provided to women, men and children. There was a 9% increase in contacts made to their helplines compared to 2010, and in all 28,615 contacts were made throughout the year. “We know how much strength it takes for a survivor to reach out for support. Therefore, it is with great sadness that we have had to affect cut backs because we know that these cuts mean that we cannot fully meet survivor’s needs at the time they need it,” she said.