A local councillor has described regional statistics relating to sexual assault and rape referrals as “very frightening”.
Cllr Patrice Hardy’s comment came during a presentation on ‘The Rowan Centre’ to Mid & East Antrim Council’s Community Planning Committee.
Based at the Antrim Area Hospital site, The Rowan is a one-stop centre delivering a comprehensive and co-ordinated inter-agency response to all victims of sexual assault and rape, irrespective of their age, gender, sexcual identity, ethnicity or geographical location.
Centre Service Manager Karen Douglas told councillors that the Rowan Team has offered support, advice and direct care to over 1,892 people since going live on May 7, 2013. She said that referrals rose by 18% in year two and that year three has to-date seen a further increase of 11%.
Of referrals, 77% or 1,128 came from the police, with 12% (182) made by the affected individual themselves and the remaining 11% (161) from third parties, councillors heard.
Thirty-seven per cent of those referred into Rowan were children and young people under 18 with the majority of individuals referred being female (87%) and almost half of those attending (49%) presented with complex and/or additional needs such as chronic mental ill-health, physical ill-health an/or learning disabilities.
Councillors were also told that ‘the vast majority of victims knew their perpetrator(s)’.
Cr Patrice Hardy described the statistics as “very frightening”, while Cllr Geraldine Mulvenna said they were “very concerning”.
“Looking at the statistics and what is going on out there...it really is a sad state of affairs”, she said.
Cr Paul Reid told Ms Douglas: “It is sad in the 21st century that we have to have services such as your own. Those are horrific statistics.”
Councillors were, however, united in welcoming the opportunity to hear about the work of Rowan and commend its services including Cr Jim Brown who stated: “People need to know that there is help out there”.
The Centre is jointly funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) and that the Centre’s professional and highly trained Team deliver a range of support and services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to children, young people, women and men who have been sexually abused, assaulted or raped.
Ms Douglas said a full range of services is offered at the The Rowan including emotional support, forensic medical examination, access to emergency contraception, sexual health screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infection, risk assessment of HIV, referral on to specialist counselling services, referral on to Victim Support NI for information and to provide support through the court process, where applicable.
While there is no drop-in facility, a 24 hour advice and information line is also available on The Rowan 24 hour Freephone Helpline – 0800 389 4424,