West Cork’s first sex assault unit opens in Bantry

September 13th, 2021 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

The new unit will mean vulnerable women and men won’t have to travel to the city for aftercare. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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WEST Cork’s first sexual assault treatment clinic has opened in Bantry, saving vulnerable women and men the time, trauma and expense of having to travel to the city for aftercare appointments.

Run by the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Cork city, this outreach clinic is a collaboration between the West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) project and the Marino Medical Centre in Bantry’s Primary Care Centre and is a free and confidential service.

The clinic started last month, and while clients will still need to attend the SATU in the city for their initial forensic examination, all follow-up appointments can now take place in Bantry.

Going forward, the hope is that all exams will take place there, and that Bantry will be used as a template for other rural clinics.

Lead forensic nurse examiner at SATU, Margo Noonan said the outreach clinic was first mooted in 2017 when stakeholders were invited by Tusla to examine domestic and sexual violence services in the area.

‘There was basically nothing for sexual violence victims at the time, with people from as far away as Allihies and Castletownbere having to travel to the city for screenings,’ Ms Noonan said.

The Marino Medical Centre  came on board with a free space for the clinic, and while Covid delayed the rollout, patients are now being seen by Margo in the first week of every month. Margo, who has worked with SATU since 2011, describes the outreach clinic as a very robust service, which caters both clinically and psychologically for men and women. Men, she said, are often cut out of the equation, but are equally at risk of sexual violence.

‘If you’ve been the victim of sexual violence, why add an increased burden on someone by having to seek out a service? This puts the patient at the centre.’

Dr Laura Cullen of the Marino Medical Centre said that sexual violence was a problem in West Cork, starting in secondary school.

‘West Cork isn’t any different to anywhere else in this regard, but what’s different is that we’re more isolated. That’s why this is such a win for West Cork, as the barrier of distance is a huge issue,’ she said.

The Bantry-based WCWAV commissioned a survey this summer to establish what other vital sexual violence supports are needed locally.   Marie Mulholland of WCWAV said: ‘We hope that as the research into the needs of sexual violence survivors in West Cork continues, there will be more initiatives in partnership with a range of organisations, leading to a truly comprehensive and holistic response to victims’ needs, and an effective programme developed of prevention through awareness-raising and education.

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