RAPE Crisis Midwest has seen an increase of more than 50% in helpline contacts since the start of the pandemic, as it struggles to make up a funding shortfall of around three-quarters.
Fundraising Manager, Verena Tarpey told The Champion that many of the calls since March relate to abuse experienced decades ago, and that the lockdown may have triggered painful childhood experiences for some.
“There’s no doubt that, particularly during the first lockdown when people were at home with their kids, there may have been triggers for them,” she said. “People also had time to reflect and to take stock. We saw a marked increase in calls to our centre during lockdown. Between March 1 and September 30, there was an increase of approximately 54% in helpline contacts when compared to the same period in 2019. There was also a significant increase in contact from particular age groups in the Midwest with a spike from those in the 24-29 and 40-49 age category.”
Covid-19 has brought additional challenges, with a drop of 75% so far this year in fundraising income, and no change to the service’s annual deficit of €125,000.
Because it is designated an essential service, Rape Crisis Midwest is now meeting people in person again.“Our centre in Ennis is back open and we are seeing clients on a weekly basis since July,” said Verena.“That said, despite restrictions earlier in the year, our centre never ‘closed’ as such, and all clients were being seen remotely. We do not receive any government funding to service the overheads connected with the Ennis centre. This is why we rely so heavily on the support of business and those in the community. We do not want to return to those days when we had to temporarily close the centre in Ennis due to lack of funding.”
One of the flagship annual fundraisers in Ennis has gone virtual this year in the hope of making up some of the funding shortfall. Normally, this time of year would see men from across the county donning their glad rags and adopting female personas for the annual Dainty Daisies fundraiser. While that cannot go ahead, the service has invited former drag contestants – from poets to accountants – to perform in a fundraising video.
Coached by Lourdes O Donoghue, owner of Sparks School of Hip Hop, the ten dance students met on a weekly basis to learn their routine before performing recently and being recorded in Shannon Airport under the name ‘10 Proud Marys’.
“For the past nine years, we have held an event in Clare engaging men from around the county to showcase their talents while raising money for Rape Crisis Midwest,” said counsellor Breda Larkin.“It [Dainty Daisies] has been a hugely successful fundraiser raising over €120,000 to keep the services going across the Midwest. This year, we have had no street collections or major fundraisers, so in early April, the idea was discussed about taking a creative view. We were lucky to engage with a young dynamic film and editing team led by Maurice Molloy, and with the support of a Irish band Toucan, we were able to produce a fun and professional video.”
Clare Volunteer Centre plays a huge role in annual fundraising efforts, as well as in the work of Rape Crisis Midwest. Manager Sharon Meaney said, “Volunteers are essential to delivering Rape Crisis Midwest Centre services to survivors of sexual violence and provide a range of services from SATU (Sexual Assault Trauma Unit) to administration”.
Cormac McCarthy, one of the Proud Marys said the men want to support Rape Crisis Midwest in challenging times. “In a time when domestic abuse and sexual violence is on the rise it was a small gesture to help keep such amazing and vital services running,” he said. “We wanted to stand in solidarity with the victims to let them know they weren’t alone.”
Donations can be made online at rapecrisis.ie or justgiving.com. By texting RCM to 50300, it is possible to donate €4, which is a minimum suggested contribution.
The Proud Marys are Mike Glynn, Michael Donnellan, Ian Dinan, Cormac McCarthy, Garry Lanigan, Eamon Keane, Laurence O’Brien, Martin Vernon, Tony Cogan and John McNulty.
Rape Crisis Midwest can be contacted on 061-311511 or 1800-311511, or by emailing email@example.com.