AN anonymous survey is being rolled out across West Cork to hear from adult survivors of any type of sexual violence in a bid to provide specialist supports, awareness and justice for people in the region.
It’s estimated that sexual violence has directly affected one in five of the population – that’s nearly 12,000 West Cork girls, boys, women and men which is more than the combined population of Bantry, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Skibbereen towns.
Called ‘Listening to Survivors and Supporters’, the survey wants to learn about people’s experiences of getting information and help from a rural region like West Cork that does not have its own specialist service.
This survey follows earlier research by Tusla that highlighted the hidden nature of sexual violence in the region.
The Bantry-based West Cork Women Against Violence Project and Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre commissioned the survey which will run until the end of July. It is funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and West Cork researcher Dr Caroline Crowley is carrying out the research.
Marie Mulholland, coordinator of WCWAV explained what prompted the survey. ‘Last year, Tusla funded a piece of research to find out, in the absence of a specialist sexual violence support service in West Cork, where and to whom did people turn for help. WCWAV is one of the services they request help from. We will never turn a survivor away empty-handed, but we know that despite all our expertise and years of experience, there is still a lot more expertise required to provide a really comprehensive support to people traumatised by sexual violence.’
Over the last few years, she said she has also noted the rise in sexual violence experienced by many of their clients and an awareness of other sexual assaults taking place in West Cork, particularly among teenagers.
‘Consequently, we funded the training of one counsellor with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and she is specifically trained now to provide therapeutic support to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. But it is nowhere near enough, given the rise in sexual coercion and rape among young people and the level of disclosures made to GPs, mental health professionals, community workers, family resource workers of past sexual abuse and rape experienced by people of all ages which the original Tusla research revealed. It is clear that there is a vital need for a comprehensive specialist support service for survivors in West Cork.’
She said that schools particularly need to develop a response to the levels of sexual coercion and the ignorance around issues of consent among teenagers.
‘We have had students from two secondary schools in West Cork approach our service asking for help to address the climate of sexual harassment and humiliation which is prevalent on social media among their fellow students.’
To find out more about the survey email [email protected] or text 087 3482474.