Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre
Contents Opening Hours & Contact Details The purpose of this booklet Our core services are: Definitions What is Child Sexual Abuse? Why is there such a silence? Rape and Sexual Abuse After the abuse has ended Surviving Sexual Abuse Questions you may have Counselling SATU Garda Involvement Family and Friends Supporting Somebody through Recovery Supporting a survivor of childhood sexual abuse Helping your relative or friend to take care of themselves Sexual relations after rape or abuse Finding trust again Useful Contacts
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DSA & RCC Opening Hours
Monday â€“ Friday 9am â€“ 5pm
Freephone: 1800 44 88 44 Telephone: 074-9128211 Fax: 074-9120642 Email: ra p e c r i s i s @ e i rco m . n e t
Our counselling services are based in Letterkenny, but we offer an outreach service in Inishowen, Donegal Town and the Gaelteacht areas. The vision for Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre is eliminating sexual violence in our society
The purpose of this booklet
This booklet is intended to provide information to adults thinking about seeking support because of their experience of sexual abuse, at any time during their lives. It also provides useful information regarding peoples responses to sexual abuse and other useful services.
Our core services are:
• Crisis Counselling
• One-to-One Counselling • Support and/or counselling for your partner, family and friends • Support through criminal proceedings • We give emotional and practical support according to your needs and wishes • Support in the weeks following an assault • All our services are confidential; however information may have to be passed on if a child is at risk • Provide a call out service at SATU
• A telephone service
• Legal information and supports for survivors in counselling who request this service
• Court accompaniment to clients
• Accompaniment to Gardai, hospital,
sexual assault treatment unit, doctors
• Awareness raising in post primary schools and community groups
Definitions Rape Rape is an act of domination, anger and violence, which uses sexual penetration as a weapon. Not all rapes and sexual assaults are necessarily physically violent but violence is always implied or threatened. Any act of sexual violence can affect someonesâ€™ life very deeply. If you have been raped or assaulted, you deserve support to help you overcome this trauma.
1 in 10 men experience sexual violence as adults
1 in 5 women experience sexual violence as adults
Sexual Assault Sexual Assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts, apart from penetration of the mouth with the penis, the penetration of the anus or vagina (however slight) with any object or penis, which is rape.
Underage Sexual Offences The age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual sex is 17. Sexual activity with anyone under 17 is illegal. (However, girls aged 15-17 will not be criminalised for engaging in sexual intercourse). The consent to sex of a girl or boy under 17 is not a defence. However, the defendant can argue that they honestly believed the child was over the age of consent.
1 in 5 women experienced sexual abuse in childhood
1 in 6 men experienced sexual abuse in childhood
Incest Punishment of Incest Act 1908, as amended, provides that a man who has sexual intercourse with his granddaughter, daughter, sister or mother shall be guilty of incest; consent is not relevant.
What is Child Sexual Abuse? Child Sexual Abuse means forcing or manipulating a child to take part in sexual activity, which for a child is always inappropriate. Child Sexual Abuse is often not physically violent, but it will always have effects on the development of the childs’ psyche. The sexual abuse of a child may be something that happens only once or everyday for many years. Sometimes abuse is remembered in vivid detail; sometimes a person will only have vague feelings that ‘something happened’, and others may have ‘forgotten’ for many years and only as adults find memories coming to the surface of their minds. The abusers of children are as varied as the locations where the abuse takes place, but more often than not the abuser is trusted by the child and is an authority figure.
Why was there such a silence? Many survivors of child abuse keep silent about what has happened to them. As a Child: • They are often too afraid to tell someone at the time • The abuser may have threatened them not to tell • They may tell someone who does not believe them • The abuser may blame the survivor, saying they are bad or different • Abusers sometimes threaten terrible consequences if the child tells e.g. death or being sent away • The child may be ‘telling’ in ways that people around them do not understand • The impact of the abuse may include the child feeling that telling will not make any difference • The abuser may continue to be in the childs’ life, with much more power to control events and circumstances • As adults, abuse survivors often find it is still difficult to trust anyone enough to tell them the full story • Feel guilt and shame, terror, self-disgust, depression and fear of being overwhelmed by painful memories that bring it all back.
Rape and Sexual Abuse Responses to Trauma Rape and sexual abuse is one of the most distressing and traumatic human experiences. It is an attack on the whole person. Therefore the impact can be enormous. Most people who have been raped or sexually abused undergo severe distress which may affect their entire lifestyle. Everyone reacts differently and at a different pace to the trauma of a sexual assault, there is no ‘right’ way for a victim to react. In a dangerous situation the human defence system produces a certain set of reactions. We feel what is often described as an ‘adrenaline rush’ which helps us to be more alert than usual. We focus all our attention on the immediate situation. We might disregard hunger, fatigue or pain. Emotional reactions to danger involve feelings of intense anger and fear. All these are normal reactions to danger. They mobilise us to fight or run. Traumatic reactions occur when our defence system is overwhelmed – when neither resistance nor flight is possible. Traumatic reactions affect all kinds of people – nobody is immune to trauma if exposed to it. In a dangerous situation when neither flight nor escape is possible we will experience profound and lasting changes in body and mind.
Responses to Danger A person may expect the danger to return at any moment and remain in a state of high alert for some time. Especially in the short term, it is very common to startle easily, react irritably to small provocation and be unable to sleep or eat normally. There may be intense anxiety and fear provoked by something that reminds us of the traumatic event. Fear and anxiety could also occur if something unexpected happens – however small that may be.
The traumatic event(s) stay present It may be impossible to forget the traumatic event. Especially in the short term, but not untypical even years later, the event can flood back into our memory with intense flashbacks or nightmares. These flashbacks can be very vivid and detailed – yet it might be difficult to express in words what is happening in them. The traumatic event may also stay present thought re-enacting – we might find we seek out dangerous situations e.g. to prove to ourselves that the trauma has not affected us. Emotionally the trauma stays present with intense rage and terror; also we may feel ashamed and guilty and blame ourselves for what happened. It was not your fault – the responsibility always lies with the perpetrator.
Trying to Escape Many people experience a change in consciousness during trauma â€“ if we cannot escape by actions we try to escape in our mind. We may experience a state of detached calm and not feel any emotion. We may deny that anything happened to us at all. We may have experienced the trauma as if observing from outside our body or as if it was happening to another person. We may not be able to remember parts of the traumatic event or the memory of it may feel completely unreal. Our body may have gone numb like under anaesthetic. We may seek to escape the memory by taking drugs or drinking excessively. This is a normal reaction to a traumatic situation which helps us to survive in the short term. However it is important to realise that, in the long-term, it will be self-destructive and will need reexamining. Remember that it is possible to heal from the effects that trauma has on us. It is very important to get immediate medical attention after an attack.
Other Possible Responses • Changes in eating / sleeping patterns • Suicidal feelings • Self-harm • Fear of going outdoors, or of being home alone, in the dark or unfamiliar places, - other fears • Variations in moods, intense and very confusing emotions, depression, embarrassment, anger, humiliations or no emotions at all (may alternate) • Not being able to trust others, disruptions in intimate relationships • Compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate) • Sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative • Sense of being completely different from other people, isolation, withdrawal
After the abuse has ended
The immediate crisis with intense flashbacks, fear, possible numbness or overwhelming emotions can last anywhere between a few days and a few months. Very often at this stage a sense of relief is felt.
Some people may break off contact with family and friends who are aware of the sexual attack, and they feel that this will enable them to take control of their lives.
Many survivors feel they just want to forget the past but can’t. Others feel they should be ‘over it’ by now and may be told these things by people who are trying to be helpful but do not really understand.
It is important to stress that the trauma of an attack may have long term effects on your life and that in dealing with and examining these you have a right to support. In order to break the isolation imposed by the attack you need to have contact with others who acknowledge and validate your experience and how it has affected you.
Surviving Sexual Abuse It is possible to heal from the effects of an attack or rape and to return to living a fulfilling life to your full potential Too much to cope with alone Survivors often contact Rape Crisis Centres for support because they find the memories of abuse are too much to cope with alone. Sometimes reports of sexual abuse in the media or change in our lives such as a new relationship or having a baby may bring back memories. We find we cannot bury the past and so seek help in understanding it and making sense of our feelings. We may have nightmares or flashbacks that we need to share with someone who understands. Some adult survivors of sexual abuse lack confidence; blame or mistreat themselves by starving, over-eating or drinking a lot to block out the pain. They may find it hard to trust people or have relationships that make them feel good. They may feel that they are over protective of their children. They may feel that they do not deserve to be loved or happy and sex may be a problem because it triggers memories of abuse or because they feel under pressure to prove they are ‘normal’. It is often very difficult to talk to anyone about experiences of sexual violence but, if you think you need to talk to somebody, please call us. You will not be asked to say any more than you want to. If you want to call just once or come in regularly, that’s okay – it’s your choice. You can talk to us even if it was someone you know who assaulted you, your partner, relative, friend or stranger, if it happened a long time ago or just recently.
Questions you may have Counselling Is Counselling for me?
Within the counselling relationship you are given the time and space, not always available in other parts of your life, to explore your feelings in relation to the trauma. Our aim in counselling is to help you reach your full potential, so that your experience of sexual violence no longer controls or overwhelms your life, behaviour and choices. The counsellor is a neutral professional so you do not need to protect them from the intensity of your feelings or the details of your trauma, as you might feel obliged to do with the family and friends you confide in.
What can I expect from counselling? Counselling will help you understand that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. This does not in any way minimise the range and intensity of feelings experienced by you but reaffirms their normality in the context of what has happened to you. The aim of counselling is not to help you forget your experience of sexual abuse, but rather to be able to live without the abuse taking over every aspect of your life. Some people find in the course of counselling that they begin to develop their strengths and resources, sometimes being unaware that they existed.
How much will it cost? TH E R E IS NO CHA RG E, but all donations are welcome.
How long will I go to counselling? You decide. The pace of healing is very individual and is affected by such things as the duration and intensity of the sexual violence, the personsâ€™ relationship to the perpetrator, previous traumatic experiences and the degree of support available to you outside of the counselling setting. We will go at your pace.
Will I see the same counsellor all the time? Yes â€“ but if you wish to change counsellors the centre will assist in this process.
Is there any help for my partner / family / friends who may be upset about what I have told them?
It may be hard for family and friends to know how to support and understand what is and is not helpful. They may feel angry, upset and helpless. We have a counsellor available to talk these issues through with those who want to support you and want to find out how best to do that. Please see our later section for Family and Friends Supporting Somebody through Recovery.
I am a male survivor of sexual abuse, can you help me? We recognise the extent of male sexual abuse by both male and female perpetrators and provide services to adults of their gender. Our contact with male survivors has shown that they come for help more readily where there is an environment of awareness and understanding of the extent of male abuse and the specific issues and dynamics. All Rape Crisis Centres will either see male clients or refer them to the appropriate local services. Some centres will have partner organisations that see men only, and in many centres male counsellors and volunteers are available.
Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre provides a counselling service for males.
Questions you may have
S AT U : Sexual Assault Treatment Unit The Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) gives essential care and forensic support to people who have been the survivors of sexual assault and rape. The work done at these units is of prime importance on two fronts, firstly in the provision of sensitive care to assault survivors who are often traumatised and deeply distressed, but also in taking the necessary steps to support the survivor and the judicial system in bringing the perpetrators to justice. The Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre has a dedicated group of volunteers known as Psychological Support Workers, who are available to offer support to women and men who are attending the Garda Station, A & E, and the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Letterkenny. Whether a victim/survivor chooses to speak with a Psychological Support Worker at the time or not, information about rape and other forms of sexual violence and the various supports available should be given to all victim/survivors.
8am - 8pm (Monday to Sunday including Public Holidays)
Services Offered by the Psychological Support Worker include:
Accompaniment through each step of the process that the victim/survivors chooses. • Crisis intervention and psychological support. • Advocating for victim/survivor’s self-articulated needs to be identified and their choices respected. • Advocating for the elimination of any communication barriers the victim/survivor may face. • Providing information about sexual violence and its after effects. • Aiding victims/survivors in identifying individuals who could support them in their healing process. • Assisting victims /survivors in planning for their own safety and well-being. • Linking victims/survivors to more long-term counselling, support and advocacy service options. • This means making contact with a victim/survivor, using a method agreed by the victim/survivor, at a time chosen by the victim/survivor, to offer information, support, advocacy crisis intervention and links to counselling. • Support victims/survivors in voicing any concerns and complaints to legal and medical personnel. • Helping families and friends to cope with their own reactions to the rape/sexual assault, providing information and increasing their understanding victims/survivors may need.
Questions you may have
Garda Involvement What happens if I report to the Gardaí?
• • • • •
You may ask to speak to a female Garda, if you wish If you are reporting a recent assault, take a change of clothing including coat and shoes as the Gardaí may keep the clothes you were wearing to gather forensic evidence Do not take any alcohol or drugs, but if you have done so before the recent assault this should not prevent you from reporting If reporting an assault / rape – report as soon as possible. There is no time limit, but valuable forensic evidence is lost quite quickly If reporting an incident of child sexual abuse, or of sexual assault / rape that happened some time ago, it is of advantage to have as many witnesses as possible who can testify to strengthen your case
• • •
The Gardaí will ask you questions but they should only be relevant to your case You will be asked to make a written statement, this means a detailed description of the events before, during and after the attack. Make sure you read your statement carefully and change it if necessary, before you sign it. You are entitled to, and should request, a typed copy of the statement you have given. If you remember other details at a later stage, you can make a supplementary statement If the alleged perpetrator is identifiable, the Gardaí may interview the person soon after you make your statement If the identity of the perpetrator is unknown to you and the Gardaí arrest a suspect you may be asked to look at photographs or attend an identity parade You may also be asked to go with the Gardaí to where the incident took place, in order to identify the person who assaulted you. If you feel you are not being treated well by the Gardaí at any stage of the proceedings, you can insist on seeing the duty officer or you can make a formal complaint.
Family and Friends Supporting Somebody through Recovery.
If someone you know has just told you they were abused it is because they trust you and they sense that you care for them. Safe, non-abusive relationships are a survivorsâ€™ most precious resource and you are very important. One of the most important things you can do for your friend / partner / daughter / sister / son or brother is to listen to them and believe what they are telling you. Another very important thing for you to do is to make sure that you keep looking after yourself. Try to be consistent and be there to listen.
Often it can be very good to give practical help: when someone is in shock and is grieving over what has just happened to them, or over what they have just remembered, they may not be able to look after themselves properly. The anger, loss and pain can feel overwhelming. If you are supporting someone at such a time, stay calm and kind; hot drinks and possibly food, vitamins and a hand to hold are all you need to provide. Survivors have had their whole person invaded and may have long term difficulties with sleeping, eating, bathing and relaxing. Helping to gradually normalise these activities as part of daily life can add a lot to survivorsâ€™ security and self-respect.
Your Feelings Often people are nervous and afraid to say the ‘wrong thing’ because they don’t know enough about sexual violence. Sexual violence is not a rare disease and you don’t need to be an expert to help. Providing a listening ear is the most important thing you can do. Sometimes people feel anger, hatred of the perpetrator and deep sorrow; they may feel they should have done more to protect the person. You may need to talk your own feelings through with somebody. Don’t expect the survivor to be able to listen to you; they have enough to cope with. Contact a friend or the Rape Crisis Centre.
Being believed is important Survivors are often very afraid of people not believing them or reacting negatively to what they say, or rejecting them for what has happened to them. Believe what they are telling you; accept what they say without saying such things as ‘why didn’t you tell someone?’ or ‘why didn’t you scream?’ Try to keep calm and if you don’t understand why a survivor is reacting in a particular way or why they have behaved as they did, remember that that is your problem not theirs. Try not to ask too many questions.
Helping to make choices
It is very important that you let the survivor make their own choices about what to do next. This means letting them decide whether they want to go for counselling, whether they want to confront the abuser, report to the GardaĂ or to arrange a HIV test. You can certainly find out information for them but let them make up their own mind about what they are going to do. Abuse and rape leaves us feeling powerless and out of control and survivors need to feel they can be in charge of their lives again.
Supporting a survivor of childhood sexual abuse
It is important to remember that for some adult survivors, their abuse may have continued for years, that it happened to someone who was still a child and that the abuser may have been a family member or other trusted adult. Some people block out memories of their abuse for many years and only begin to remember in their 20â€™s or 30â€™s or even later. Others simply never tell anyone what has happened to them and may feel responsible for the abuse and may suffer from self-hatred for years.
Helping your relative or friend to take care of themselves Some survivors harm themselves in a variety of ways. They may become anorexic, or they may engage in self-harm. It’s okay to object – you don’t have to accept that this is an inevitable result of the abuse. Try to understand why your friend / partner is doing these things and spend time with them working out other ways of dealing with their feelings. Learning to care for themselves is important – exercise, massage, relaxation and cooking can all help survivors learn new ways of treating themselves. When someone you care about tells you their experience, it is common to feel anxious and overwhelmed. It is an honour to your relationship that they told you. It is important to remember that it is sometimes not possible to give complete confidentiality and you may need to talk to other people. This should only be done with great care and only when absolutely necessary, for example when other people or children are in danger. Do not treat them differently because of what they have told you – they have not changed in the telling. Be clear and honest about what support you can offer them and what you feel able to hear. At the same time show your commitment to helping your friend find any other resources he/she may need. You may find you need support yourself and we are here to assist you.
Sexual relations after rape or abuse Experiences of sexual violence can mean that the survivor can distance intimacy, whether in the context of close friendships or sexual relationships. Memories of terror and pain may pour out in response to the tenderest touch. If your partner has been raped or sexually abused they may not want to have physical contact or have you physically close. It is important to respect their wishes and tell them that you will not pressurise them. For some survivors, childhood abuse blurred the line between sex and affection and this can affect friendships as much as sexual relationships. Discuss this with your partner / friend and negotiate what kind of touch is welcome. It is important that survivors feel they can take charge again in this way and for partners to respect the survivors’ needs, whether it’s just to be held or not touched at all for a time. There are lots of ways to show affection and have fun, but the most important is probably talking and listening. Again, if you do not understand your partners needs and reactions as regards their body and you are confused or angry over it, it might be good to talk to someone – either someone at Rape Crisis or someone you trust.
Finding trust again When trust has been abused, the safest thing to do might seem to be never to trust anyone again. If you think of trust not as something which is â€˜givenâ€™ but which has to earned, it will be easier to find ways to show your friend / partner that you are trustworthy â€“ worthy of their trust. Telling you is a demonstration of a level of trust, your willingness and ability to support them will be another. Enabling someone who has had their trust violated to begin believing in the possibility of trust is something very precious and will always be valued.
Other Rape Crisis Centres Carlow Cork Donegal Dublin Galway Kerry Kilkenny Limerick Louth Mayo Offaly
1800 72 77 37 1800 49 64 96 1800 44 88 44 1800 77 88 88 1850 35 53 55 1800 63 33 33 1800 47 84 78 1800 31 15 11 1800 21 21 22 1800 23 49 00 1800 32 32 32
Sligo Tipperary Waterford
1800 75 07 80 1800 34 03 40 1800 29 62 96 1800 30 66 00 1800 33 00 33
Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre is a member of Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
w w w.rcn i.ie
Gardai Letterkenny Garda Station
Donegal Town Garda Station
Glenties Garda Station
Milford Garda Station
Buncrana Garda Station
Ballyshannon Garda Station
Hospital Letterkenny General Hospital
1850 400 911
DSA & RCC
Graphic Design: Theresa Haag
Sexual Abuse is not your FAULT