by Bernie English
RAPE Crisis Midwest has seen its cohort of counsellors decimated by the Covid lockdown and is urgently in need of people to support victims of rape and sexual assault.
The service, which is based at Punches Cross in Limerick City, has been unable to train volunteers for almost two years due to the lockdown, and has in the last week begun training new groups.
The result is that almost 90 people are on a waiting list to access services from the centre.
This is on top of an increase of 54 per cent in calls to the service last year.
Many of those who would have supported people reporting sexual crimes and worked as volunteer professional counsellors have retired and could not be replaced during Covid.
Spokesperson Verena Tarpey told the Limerick Post that 15 people have started training as support workers to accompany clients to procedures such as forensic evidence gathering. A new batch of counsellors is also being trained to give follow-up support to clients such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and ongoing counselling for trauma.
“The problem is that the training course is a year long and while they come to us with professional counselling qualifications, they need this training before they can deal with clients on an ongoing basis.”
Rape Crisis, which offers support and services for people in the Limerick, Clare and Nenagh catchment area receives some funding from family support organisation Tusla.
But they still have to come up with €125,000 per year to keep the doors open.
The support of volunteers is also vital in this and they are seeking people with an interest in this work to help organise fundraisers and events.
The service plans to offer more training courses shortly and anyone interested must agree to going on a roster at least once or twice a week, and must live within one hour of the University Hospital Limerick, which offers forensic evidence gathering 24 hours a day at weekends and between 6am and 6pm on weekdays.
Counselling volunteers must have a counselling qualification and be willing to undergo the specialist accredited training in order to work with centre’s six full-time staff.
Anyone interested an any of the roles should contact Rape Crisis Midwest on their social media sites or or phone 1800311511 for details.