The numbers of sexual assault victims to attend at Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) across the country during the Covid-19 lockdown reduced by 39% compared to the same period last year.
That is according to figures provided by the consultant medic leading the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Service in Ireland, Dr Maeve Eogan.
The SATU service here provides clinical, forensic and supportive care for those who have experienced sexual violence and Dr Eogan provided figures concerning attendances at SATUs from March 12 to June 28 this year.
They show that there were 167 attendances at SATUs in that period this year compared to 273 for the corresponding period last year.
Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Eogan stated: “This shows that sexual violence is not all related to colleges, clubs and pubs - which would often be a narrative used when sexual violence is being discussed – and a pandemic, with associated lockdown, has sadly not obliterated sexual violence in our country.”
Dr Eogan stated that the lockdown figures also emphasise that night-clubs and pubs “are only one piece of the jigsaw of sexual violence”.
Dr Eogan stated: “Even when they were closed, allegations of rape and sexual assault did not disappear and sexual violence continued to happen in other contexts. It shows that it is a ‘whole of society’ phenomenon, and education to counter it cannot just focus on countering violence in pub and club culture.”
The reduced numbers attending the country’s six SATUs during lock-down contributed to provisional SATU attendances for the first six months of this year decreasing by 22.5% to 339 compared to 438 for the same period last year.
On the assailants in the cases during the ‘lock-down’ period, Dr Eogan stated that approximately 20% of SATU attendees disclosed an incident perpetrated by an intimate partner, or ex-intimate partner or family member, compared with 13% for the same period in 2019.
She stated: “It also appeared that incidents may have been more likely to occur in the patient’s or the assailant’s home in the 2020 period, compared with the same period in 2019. “
She stated that 96% of patients were seen within three hours of a request for forensic examination in the 2020 period, compared with 92% in the same period in 2019 highlighting that staffing and infrastructure remained available throughout the acute phase of the pandemic.
The recently published 2019 annual report of the National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Services showed that two of the six SATUs at the Rotunda in Dublin and Galway reported their busiest years to date last year.
The report shows that the 943 to attend six SATUs was an increase of two on the 941 to attend in 2018 - last year was the fifth consecutive year where the numbers attending SATUs increased.
The report found that 153 or 16% of those to attend SATUs were concerned that drugs, including alcohol, had been used to facilitate sexual assault.
A number of units reported sharp increases with the country’s busiest SATU at Rotunda in Dublin reporting a 23% increase on its 2018 total.
Last year, 393 attended the Rotunda, making it the busiest year to date at the Rotunda SATU.
The SATU at Galway also reported its busiest year to date with 102 patients attending while 110 patients attended the Donegal SATU in 2019, a 31% increase on 2018.
The numbers to attend the Rotunda SATU accounted for 23% of the total from the six SATUs at Dublin, Cork, Mullingar, Waterford, Galway and Donegal.
The 2019 report states that 675 or 62% of 1,084 perpetrators were described as ‘strangers’ or ‘recent acquaintance’ with an additional 177 or 17% as ‘friend’ or ‘family member’ while 94 or 9% were described as an intimate or ex-intimate partner.
The report states that 13% or 130 were unsure if a sexual assault had occurred.
The report also documents that 89% of assaults were by a single assailant with 10% being by multiple assailants.
The report shows that 93% of those to attend SATU’s were female with 7% male.
On the alcohol and drug use of those who attended, 422 or 45% had consumed more than six standard drinks and 194 or 21% had consumed less than six drinks.
The report also found that 26% or 242 had consumed no alcohol in the 24 hours prior to the incident.
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