By Sarah Slevin
The Galway Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC) has seen an increase in clients during the pandemic as numbers on its waiting list have risen.
The centre has been getting more phone calls during level five restrictions, but counsellors have also noticed the increase in people visiting following the easing of restrictions.
The centre has been offering confidential counselling and support service for those affected by sexual abuse and sexual violence for almost 40 years.
Michelle Caulfield, Counsellor at GRCC, said that the pandemic has heightened the need for the services.
“We’ve seen an increase in calls during lockdown and it tends to get incredibly busy when the lockdown is lifted in terms of people coming in.”
“When you are in a lockdown, and stuck in your house, those things can get much more pronounced and more difficult to process – people are possibly on their own or in a situation that may be unhealthy,” she said.
The GRCC was run on a voluntary basis until the late eighties but has since relied on grants and funding to support their services.
Despite the high demand for the services, funding cuts have meant that the helpline is only open for three hours a day Monday to Friday.
“It used to be all day, up until 5pm, but funding was cut about eight years ago, and we had to reduce our hours because of resources. Our time is better spent doing face-to-face work within the centre,” said Ms Caulfield.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre helpline has remained open 24 hours a day for people nationwide. Ms Caulfield said that people from Galway can call that helpline and then be put in touch with the Galway centre.
Ms Caulfield said that the centre sees between 130 and 140 appointments a week in Galway alone. The services continued during lockdowns and appointments were often taken over telephone or Microsoft Teams.
“What is going to increase is the waiting lists at this point,” she said.
Many clients have been waiting for face-to-face appointments due to a lack of privacy in their homes for taking remote appointments.
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