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Donegal Rape Crisis Centre “inundated” with under 18’s seeking help

'young teenagers experiencing sexual violence'

The manager of Donegal Rape Crisis Centre, says that the service is being “inundated” with underage victims of sexual abuse and violence. 

The centre is struggling to provide assistance to victims and their family members amid a surge in demand, Marina Porter told Gript.

“For the last two years we have had the highest number of under 18s in the country..we have seen a huge, huge increase in the numbers” she said adding, “we dropped the age to 14 a few years ago and there was still the need for services for people under 14.”

Porter said the centre managed to secure funding for creative arts therapies in order to be able to lower the age of victims they receive to 12. 

“We have so many young people 13, 14, 15 year olds who are experiencing sexual violence, we’re just inundated at the moment”

Porter says 90% of victims are girls,  and that  the perpetrators are mostly young males saying, “they would be peers”. 

“Adults abusing children continues to happen but “we have seen a real surge in peer on peer sexual violence, and there’s also increasingly physical violence associated with that.”

“Young girls are getting badly beaten as well as sexually assaulted and raped” she says. 

When asked if some of  the victims of the abuse believed they were in a relationship with their abusers she said, “It’s a combination – a lot of the time they might be known to each other or be in the same social circles, clubs, or schools.” 

She added, “The perpetrator may be a friend of a friend” 

Asked to identify contributing factors to the shocking levels of reports of abuse Porter said a lot of young people were getting their “education, notion, or view of relationships and sexual relationships from pornography”

“Now there is more violent and hardcore pornography” she said adding that she thought the lockdowns were also a factor as many youngsters may have been online more when not in school. 

She pointed to our society’s sexualisation of young women and girls saying that they are increasingly seen as ‘objects’, “basically bodies to be used and abused to someone’s whim and desire”. 

She said platforms like Tiktok are normalising sexual behaviours to young people as such apps are where they ‘get their information’ saying,  ‘they think this is what you do’. 

“It’s a whole cultural thing, and obviously the education needs to be age appropriate. 

By the time somebody reaches secondary school it may be already too late and something may have already happened to them, or they may have done something they shouldn’t, not realising they are committing a crime.”

Porter continued, “It’s very very worrying” explaining how the centre is trying to raise funds to run a consent program. 

“It’s the only way to attack this”, she says adding, “we need to be proactive, not just reactive’. 

She explained how the centre provides support to not only victims but their parents and guardians, “We just can’t cope at the moment” she said pointing to a lack of resources. 

Porter stated that unless adequate measures were put in place to make young people aware that they were committing a crime, or that a crime was being committed against them, the situation would continue to escalate. 

The centre’s consent program  – that it piloted last year – now gives four hours a week with funding from the Late Late Toy Show which, whoever this “barely covers basic admin”.

The service also received 5000 from the HSE this year, and 5000 last year from Donegal County Council. 

“We have about 690 young people awaiting this training which we don’t have the resources to deliver”, says Porter. 

She also pointed to the importance of ‘disclosure training’ saying it is also a service provided by the clinic that a significant number of teachers wish to receive as,  if initial disclosure of sexual abuse isn’t handled well,  the victim ‘may never speak of it again’. 

‘“There is so much needed and it does need to be properly funded by the government and the department of education”. 

She emphasised the need for education pointing to what young people might be seeing, what kind of conversations they might be hearing etc.  

“They need to be taught to respect themselves and then other people as well”. 

Pointing to Coco’s law, said most young people are not aware that the sharing of intimate images is a crime. 

 

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