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Sexual assault units saw 22% drop in attendance during 2020

05 Jul 2021 / ireland Print

Sexual assault units saw 22% drop in attendance

A total of 734 people attended the six sexual assault treatment units (SATU) in the Republic last year, a 22% decrease of 209 from 2019, when 943 attended.

These units are located in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Mullingar, Galway and Letterkenny.

During the most strict lockdown periods of march-May and October-November, attendances declined by 32% and 49% respectively.

Out of 734 reported incidents, 71% occurred indoors with 24% being in the assailant's home and 24% being in the complainant’s home.

Less likely to be strangers

During lockdown, reported incidents were more likely to take place indoors, and alleged assailants were less likely to be strangers.

Alleged assaults by strangers and recent acquaintances reduced.

More calls came from the under-18s and fewer aged 18-35 attended units.

  • 178 (22%) of 822 alleged perpetrators were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance’,
  • 142 (17%) were described as a ‘friend’ or ‘acquaintance’,
  • 122 (14%) were described as an intimate (or ex-intimate) partner, (up from 9%),
  • 22% were described as a family member,
  • 95 attendees, or 13%, were unsure if a sexual assault had occurred.

A full 92% of complainants were female, and the mean age was 27, while six were over 70.

Three-quarters (76%) were Irish with 17% of another nationality. And 35% were students, either at school or college, while 24% were employed and 27% (201) were jobless.

While 456 cases were referred to the sexual assault unit by gardai, 145 were self-referred. 

Of the total, 39% (254) had consumed more than six standard drinks, while 105 (14%) had taken recreational drugs in the 24 hours prior to the incident.

During 2020, attendees continued to be offered the option of storage of evidence, to allow time to consider whether to enter the criminal justice process.

Forensic exam 

All SATUs remained operational throughout the year with over 90% of attendees seen within three hours of a request for forensic examination, when appropriate.

Units introduced questionnaire-based screening prior to any attendance at SATU, with referral for COVID testing if indicated.

Face-to-face contact with patients was reduced (initially by using telephone for consultation/history taking and then moving to videocall).

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