The head of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) national network has expressed concern that physical restraints were used in one quarter of alleged rapes and sexual assaults reported to the service last year.
Prof Maeve Eogan was commenting on the 2021 SATU annual report which shows that physical restraint was used in 216 incidents and use of weapons, gun/knife or other was disclosed in 61 cases.
The new report shows that the number of alleged rapes and sexual assaults reported last year increased by 17 per cent to 859 at six SATUs and Prof Eogan confirmed that attendances are this year running at a higher rate.
HSE National Clinical Lead with SATU, Prof Eogan said that the use of restraints in alleged rapes and sexual assaults “is not something we have previously reported on” and commented that the 25 per cent figure “is certainly a concern”.
Prof Eogan said that the SATU network welcomes that Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee “has secured Government approval to draft legislation to make non-fatal strangulation a standalone offence, as research has shown this to be an indicator of a higher risk of future, lethal violence”.
On the increase in cases last year, Prof Eogan said: “Even though there were Covid restrictions for portions of 2021, the numbers almost returned to pre-Covid levels. Hopefully this increase does not represent an increase in sexual violence, but more that people are now aware of the service and seek care from SATU when they need it.”
Director of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Noeline Blackwell said that the 25 per cent use of restraints in reported incidents by SATU “is very high. It is a worrying trend. It is very important that SATU is now producing these figures”.
She said that the SATU figures follow helpline staff and therapists at the Rape Crisis Centre becoming concerned about increasingly violent nature of sexual assaults over the past few years.
The report found 94 per cent of the alleged assaults were by a single assailant, with 5 per cent committed by multiple assailants.
The report also found 34 per cent of the perpetrators were described as a ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance’, 19 per cent as a ‘friend’ or ‘family member’ while 11 per cent were described as an intimate or ex-intimate partner. A further 3 per cent were described as ‘persons in authority’.
The report states that 128 or 15pc of SATU attendees were concerned that drugs - including alcohol - had been used to facilitate sexual assault.
The report shows that 92 per cent of the overall total who attended were female, with 7 per cent being male and 1 per cent other. It also found that 67 per cnt of patients attending SATUs reported the incident to the gardaí.