Victims Reported Sex Abuse after TV Shows [Ireland]
May 26, 2003

Television documentaries exposing sexual abuse by clergy led to a high number of victims coming forward to report rape in Ireland, figures showed today.

Counsellors said that programmes such as Suing the Pope and Cardinal Secrets helped many people take the first step towards recovery from their ordeal.

Both were broadcast during 2002 and coincided with an 18% rise in calls to Dublin's Rape Crisis Centre

"Media coverage of sexual abuse does help people to come forward and disclose abuse, thus starting the path to recovery," Dublin RCC chairperson Breda Allen said.

But she warned that media coverage could also be upsetting for victims, reminding them of feelings of shame and helplessness.

The BBC documentary Suing the Pope - broadcast in April 2002 - led to the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey.

A few months later RTE's Cardinal Secrets focused on allegations that the Dublin archdiocese badly handled claims of clerical abuse.

Shortly afterwards the Government announced it was setting up an inquiry into allegations of abuse.

Annual statistics released by Dublin RCC also revealed that the majority of those contacting its service were young - nearly 60% were under the age of 30.

Many asylum seekers who suffered abuse in their own countries before reaching Ireland used the service.

Stranger rape continues to rise, increasing by 2% over the year to 34%.

Most sexual attackers were family members and other people known to the victim.

The figures revealed that call-outs to the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda Hospital increased by 29% during 2002.

Ms Allen said it was important for victims to have access to rape crisis centres such as the Dublin service.

She pointed to a report published last year which estimated that half a million people were affected by sexual violence in the greater Dublin area alone.

"Our services are only reaching a small number of these," she said.

"It is very important that the services provided by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and the other centres around Ireland are available to victims.

"When survivors of abuse pluck up the courage to ask for help, our centres are there to support them through what can often be a long-term process of recovery."

She added that it was wrong to rely on Garda crime statistics, as most sexual violence was never reported.

Dublin's rape crisis centre provides a counselling service for around 600 victims every year.


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