The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre – 25th Anniversary Conference “Sexual Abuse and Violence – Responding to Change“

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Rape as a Weapon of War –
A Key Topic in Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s Conference

Monday, 10th October 2005: 10.00am – 4.30pm
in National College of Ireland (NCI), IFSC, Mayor Street, Dublin 1

Rape as a weapon of war was a key topic in Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 25th Anniversary Conference, held today in the National College of Ireland. International and national speakers explored this issue from legal, journalistic and therapeutic perspectives. The Conference also explored the challenges facing the DRCC in a multi-cultural society.

Judge Maureen Harding Clark, of the International Criminal Court, spoke about rape as a crime against humanity drawing on her enormous experience and expertise as a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Lara Marlowe, a distinguished foreign correspondent for The Irish Times, covered the issue of rape as a weapon of war. Her contribution was based on her experience of the wars in the former Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s and her interviews with Bosnian women who survived Serb rape camps.

Ms. Angela McCarthy, Clinical Director of the DRCC, in her presentation, said “Unfortunately, rape still continues to be used as a weapon of war as highlighted recently in Darfur, with reports of widespread and systematic rape. In the past the DRCC responded to reports of mass rape by sending therapists to the former Yugoslavia. Currently, we face the challenge of providing counselling to many asylum-seekers who are reporting rape, torture and imprisonment in their countries of origin.

In our 2004 Annual Statistics:

  • 330 callers (3%) to the helpline were non-nationals.
  • 100 callers (1%) were refugee/asylum seekers who had either experienced sexual violence in their countries of origin, or in some cases, since their arrival in Ireland.

It is part of our current and future challenge as a Rape Crisis Centre to provide a culturally appropriate service for the increasing numbers of non-nationals, including migrant workers and refugees/asylum-seekers who seek help for their experiences of sexual violence. At present the DRCC provides counselling for persons who speak English or French. For those who speak other languages, lack of funding for interpreters currently means we cannot provide a service.”

A book on the history of the Centre ‘Without Fear: 25 Years of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’, written by award winning author and journalist, Susan McKay, was launched at the Conference.

Susan McKay said “The story of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is one of struggle and great courage. Twenty five years on, the Centre’s staff and volunteers have helped thousands of women and men to overcome the trauma of having been raped. They’ve saved lives. They’ve changed laws and they’ve changed minds. This is a proud history.”

Ms. Breda Allen, Chairperson, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, who opened the Conference, said “Today is a time for great celebration. Through all the ups and downs of the past 25 years, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has survived to be an acknowledged centre of excellence, in providing therapy for people who have suffered the trauma of rape or sexual abuse.”

At the Conference, An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, TD launched SAVI Revisited, a three year follow-up study to the SAVI Report (2002) commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Professor Hannah McGee, RCSI, speaking about the original SAVI study, reminded delegates at the Conference that this was a landmark national study, providing, for the time, reliable statistics on the extent and nature of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.

Prof McGee stated “We have just completed a 3-year follow-up study. It considers the long-term implications of research on sensitive issues, such as sexual abuse, for participants. We found no long-term detrimental effects of participation in SAVI. Most participants commented on positive effects of participation. While a minority reported finding participation to be more difficult than they had anticipated, they reported no long-term effects and were glad to have participated. This highlights, however, the need to plan such studies with considerable care and support facilities”.

In closing the Conference, Ms. Irene Bergin, CEO of the DRCC, said “Working in a multi-cultural society is a key challenge for the future. Currently we recognise the need for interpreters, and training for all staff in the area of cultural diversity, if we are to meet the needs of our emerging communities.

“In the last 25 years the number of people contacting the crisis line for help has increased from 76 in 1979 to 10,944 in 2004. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre currently offers counselling and therapy to both men and women from its main centre in Leeson Street and its outreach service in Coolock. We are now planning to provide a new outreach service in south Dublin later in the year.”

< Back to Media