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31st May 2022

Victims of sexual assault facing delays in accessing essential services

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Just awful.

Victims of sexual abuse looking to access essential services are now experiencing significant delays in West Cork.

As well as a lack of local support, research into the impact of sexual violence on victims was published today by the West Cork Women Against Violence project (WCWAV).

Carried out by Dr Caroline Crowley, the report Listening to Survivors of Sexual Violence and their Supporters in West Cork looked at 23 survivors aged between 18 and 54, and their supporters.

It found that the delays in forensic examinations and medical attention and the lack of information and therapeutic support have impacted negatively on a person’s recovery.

A key finding in the research found that most respondents first experienced sexual violence as a child or teenager and sought the help of another child or teenager rather than an adult.

It also found that the long term consequences of sexual violence in survivors’ lives included the life-long physical effects of sexual abuse in childhood.

“The powerful voices of survivors in this report tell us about the hurt and long-term impacts of inappropriate responses,” Dr Crowley said.

“They also highlight how to work together to support and care and build a community with zero tolerance for sexual assault.”

Most of those included in the report said that their first experience of sexual violence was during childhood.

Over half of these people said that they went on to experience this as an adult also, with most cases saying the perpetrator was known to them and most likely a relative.

A third of cases said that when they approached a person to say what had happened, they were not supportive.

The report made the recommendation that a full, wraparound specialist service with trained staff should be located in West Cork as well as community-based prevention and early intervention family support programmes.

It also recommended the delivery of healthy relationships and sex education programmes in schools.

CEO of WCWAV Marie Mulholland said: “The voices in this report are the tip of the iceberg. They need us to hear them, to believe them and ultimately to be there for them in practical, immediate and meaningful ways to help them heal, while also working to prevent future victims.

“If we can do that, then as a community we will have gone beyond anger and sadness to producing solutions.”