Information

At Tullamore Rape Crisis Centre, we provide support and services for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence. Below, we have answered some frequently asked questions. To get support or to find out more, freephone 1800 32 32 32 or email us at tullamorerapecrisis@gmail.com

Frequently asked questions

Information about sexual violence

What is sexual violence?


Sexual violence is an all-encompassing term - we use it to include rape, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, intimate partner sexual violence, sexual harassment, coercive control and other forms of abuse. If you think you may be the victim of sexual violence, get in touch with us today.




What is sexual assault?


Sexual assault is a wide ranging term that refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim. It can include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts
  • Being made to look at pornography
It is important to remember that sexual assault is never the fault of the victim - it is always the fault of the perpertrator. If you or someone you love has experienced sexual assault, we can help so get in touch.




What is rape?


Rape is penetration (no matter how slight) of the mouth, anus or vagina with an object or the penis without consent. Rape is never the victims fault - it is always the fault of the perpertrator. If you or someone you love has been raped, contact us today.




What is childhood sexual abuse?


Child sexual abuse is when a child is forced or maniuplated into taking part in sexual activity. It can take many forms, including:

  • Being made to watch sexual acts
  • Being made to look at pornography
  • Being watched in a sexual way
  • Being touched in a sexual way
  • Being made to masturbate or to masturbate the abuser
  • Being raped (penetration of mouth, anus or vagina by any object, by a finger or penis)
The majority of perpetrators are someone the child or family knows, but they can be strangers, too. The important thing to remember is that you can heal from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. To get help, contact us today.




I have just been raped/assaulted - what should I do?


Try to get to a safe place and seek support from someone who can help you now. If you are injured, seek medical attention – call 999 or 112. Call our freephone helpline ( 1800 32 32 32) or the National 24 Hour Freephone Helpline ( 1800 77 88 88) for support and information on options. Remember - this is not your fault and you are not to blame. If you feel comfortable, you should attend your local Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. They will provide you with medical attention and can also collect forensic medical attention. Someone from the Centre will support you through this, so please call ( 1800 32 32 32). If you feel comfortable, you can report the assault to the Gardaí by finding your local station or calling 999 or 112. The Gardaí will want you to attend the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit and may then ask you for a preliminary statement. At any stage of the process, we are here to answer your questions and support you.




What is a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit?


Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) provide specialist care for people who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped. If you are under 18 years of age, you must have a parent or legal guardian with you to give permission for a forensic examination. We are here to help you through this process so please make contact with us through our freephone helpline (1800 32 32 32) or by emailing us.
The SATU services respond to requests from Gardaí to aid the legal process. They also provide services for people who do not wish to report the incident to the Gardaí. There is no charge for any of the SATU services or follow up appointments. The closest Sexual Assault Treatment Unit is in Mullingar Regional Hospital. You can make an appointment through the Gardaí or by calling 044 9394239 or 086 0409952 Mon -Fri 08.00- 17.30. Outside of these hours, you may call the Gardaí or the hospital directly on 044 93 40221.




What happens if I report to the Gardai?


Rape Crisis Centre counsellors will give you, or assist you in obtaining, all the information you need in order to be able to make a decision about whether to report or not. If you do decide to approach the Gardai, we can arrange this for you, and can facilitate the statement being taken in a Centre if that feels safer than going to the Garda station.

  • If you decide to go to the Gardai, the following information should be helpful to you: Bring someone you feel comfortable with. You are entitled to have them stay with you if you want. However if they are present during the taking of your statement their details need to be included and they may be called as a witness. For this reason, the Gardai may ask that you not be accompanied during the actual taking of the statement. If however you want the person present insist on it!
  • Make a note of the names of any Gardai or detectives you have significant contact with from the time you first report. THE GARDAI HAVE A DUTY TO KEEP YOU INFORMED OF THE PROGRESS OF YOUR CASE
  • You may ask to speak to a female Garda, if you wish.
  • If you are reporting a recent assault, take a change of clothing including coat and shoes as the Gardai may keep the clothes you were wearing to gather forensic evidence.
  • Do not take any alcohol or drugs, but if you have done so before the recent assault this should not prevent you from reporting.
  • If reporting an assault/rape - report as soon as possible. There is no time limit, but valuable forensic evidence is lost quite quickly.
  • If reporting an incident of child sexual abuse, or of sexual assault/rape that happened some time ago, it is of advantage to have as many witnesses as possible who can testify to strengthen your case.
  • The Gardai will ask you questions but they should only be relevant to your case.
  • You will be asked to make a written statement; this means a detailed description of the events before, during and after the attack. Make sure you read your statement carefully and change it if necessary, before you sign it. You are entitled to, and should request, a typed copy of the statement you have given.
  • If you remember other details at a later stage, you can make a supplementary statement. If the alleged perpetrator is identifiable, the Gardai may interview the person soon after you make your statement.
  • If the identity of the perpetrator is unknown to you and the Gardai arrest a suspect you may be asked to look at photographs or attend an identity parade.
  • You may also be asked to go with the Gardai to where the incident took place, in order to try to identify the person who assaulted you.
  • If you feel you are not being treated well by the Gardai at any stage of proceedings, you can insist on seeing the duty officer or you can make a formal complaint.





Counselling

What can I expect from counselling?


Within the counselling relationship you are given the time and space, not always available in other parts of your life, to explore your feelings in relation to the trauma. Our aim in counselling is to help you reach your full potential, so that your experience of sexual violence no longer controls or overwhelms your life, behaviour and choices. The counsellor is a neutral professional so you do not need to protect them from the intensity of your feelings or the details of your trauma, as you might feel obliged to do with the family or friends you confide in.




How long will I be in counselling?


The pace of healing is very individual and is affected by such things as the duration and intensity of the sexual violence, the person's relationship to the perpetrator, previous traumatic experiences and the degree of support available to the client outside of the counselling setting. People will usually have weekly sessions for some time, and begin to spread out the time between sessions as they become stronger and better able to manage on their own.




Is there any help for my partner/family/friends who may be upset about what I have told them?


Learning that someone you care for has experienced sexual violence can be quite a shock and may induce feelings of helplessness. We have a counsellor available to talk these feelings through.




Will counselling help me forget?


Forgetting events of such an extreme nature as sexual violence is not a realistic or even desirable goal of counselling. What the counselling process can hope to achieve is that the event becomes something which no longer take over your day to day life. You may in fact, find in the course of counselling that you begin to develop positive aspects of yourself that may have lain dormant for many years or may have been under-developed. Counselling will help you understand that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. This does not in any way minimise the range and intensity of feelings experienced by you but re-affirms their normality in the context of what has happened to you.





Family and friends

Information for friends and families


YOUR IMPORTANCE AS A FRIEND If someone you know has just told you that they were abused it is because they trust you and they sense that you care for them. Safe, non–abusive relationships are survivors’ most precious resources and you are very important. One of the most important things you can do for your friend/partner/daughter/sister is to listen to them and believe what they are telling you. Another very important thing for you to do is to make sure that you keep looking after yourself. LISTEN. PRACTICAL SUPPORT Often it can be really good to give practical help: when someone is in shock and is grieving over what has just happened to them, or over what they have just remembered, they may not be able to look after themselves properly. The anger, loss and pain can feel overwhelming. If you are supporting someone at such a time stay calm and kind; hot drinks and possibly food, vitamins and a hand to hold are all you need to provide. Survivors have had their whole person invaded and may have long-term difficulties with sleeping, eating, bathing and relaxing. Helping to gradually normalise these activities as part of daily life can add a lot to survivors’ security and self-respect. YOUR FEELINGS Often people are nervous and afraid to say ‘the wrong thing’ because they don’t know enough about sexual violence. Sexual violence is not a rare disease and you don’t need to be an expert to help. Providing a “listening ear” is the most important thing you can do. You may need to talk your own feelings through with somebody. Don’t expect the survivor to be able to listen to you; they have enough to cope with. Contact a friend or a Rape Crisis Centre. BEING BELIEVED IS IMPORTANT Survivors are often very afraid of people not believing them or reacting negatively to what they say, or rejecting them for what has happened to them. Believe what they are telling you; accept what they say without saying such things as ‘why didn’t you tell someone?’ or ‘why didn’t you scream?’ Try to keep calm and if you don’t understand why a survivor is reacting in a particular way or why they have behaved as they did, remember that that is your problem not theirs. Try not to ask too many questions. HELPING TO MAKE CHOICES It is very important that you let the survivor make their own choices about what they do next. This means letting them decide whether they want to go for counselling, whether they want to confront the abuser, report to the Gardai or arrange a HIV test. You can certainly find out information for them but let them make up their own mind about what she is going to do. Abuse and rape leave us feeling powerless and out of control and survivors need to feel they can be in charge of their lives again.




Supporting a survivor of childhood sexual abuse


Many of the experiences already talked about in the context of rape are similar for survivors of childhood abuse: the differences can be that the abuse may have gone on for years, that it happened to someone who was still a child and that the abuser may have been a father or other trusted adult. Some people block out memories of their abuse for many years and only begin to remember in their 20’s and 30’s or even later. Others simply never tell anyone what has happened to them and may feel responsible for the abuse and suffer much from self-hatred for years. When someone you care about tells you about their childhood abuse it is common to feel anxious and overwhelmed. It is a compliment to your relationship that they told you but don’t be sworn to secrecy – you may need to talk to other people, although this should only be done with care, and in confidence. Do not treat them differently because of what they have told you – they have not changed in the telling. Be clear and honest about what support you can offer them and what you feel able to hear. At the same time show your commitment to helping your friend find any other resources she may need.




Taking care of your friend


Some survivors harm themselves in a variety of ways’ they may be anorexic, or they may engage in self-harm. It’s okay to object – you don’t have to accept that this is an inevitable result of the abuse. Try to understand why your friend / partner is doing these things and spend time with them working out other ways of dealing with their feelings. Learning to care for themselves is important – exercise, massage, relaxation and cooking can all help survivors learn new ways of treating themselves.




Physical relationhsips after rape or assault


Experiences of sexual violence can mean that women distance intimacy, whether in the context of close friendships or sexual relationships. Memories of terror and pain may pour out in response to the tenderest touch. If your partner has been raped or sexually abused they may not want to have physical contact or have you physically close. Respect their wishes and tell them that you will not pressurise them. For some survivors, childhood abuse blurred the line between sex and affection and this can affect friendships as much as sexual relationships. Discuss this with your partner / friend and negotiate what kind of touch is welcome. It is important that survivors feel they can take charge again in this way and for partners to respect the survivors needs, whether it’s just to be held or not to be touched at all for a time. There are lots of ways to show affection and have fun, but the most important is probably talking and listening. Again, if you do not understand your partner’s needs and reactions as regards their body and you are confused or angry over it, it might be good to talk to someone -either someone at Rape Crisis or someone you trust. FINDING TRUST AGAIN When trust has been abused, the safest thing to do might seem to never trust anyone again. Whilst this might protect women; most of them wish they could be different. If you think of trust not as something which is ‘given’ but which has to be earned, it will be easier to find ways to show your friend / partner that you are trustworthy – worthy of their trust. Telling you is a demonstration of a level of trust, your willingness and ability to support them will be another. Enabling someone who has had their trust violated to begin believing in the possibility of trust is something very precious and will always be value.





Surviving rape and sexual assault

Information on surviving rape and sexual assault


It is often very difficult to talk to anyone about your experiences of sexual violence but, if you think you need to talk to somebody, please call us. You will not be asked to say any more than you want to. If you want to call just once or come in regularly, that’s okay – it’s your choice. You can talk to us if it was someone you know who assaulted you, your husband or a relative or a friend or a stranger; if it happened a long time age or just recently. All sexual violence is serious – we will listen to you and take you seriously.




Emotional responses to rape


It is possible to heal from the effects of an attack or rape, and return to living a fulfilling life to your full potential. Rape is a violent crime and a violent expression of power. It is always terrifying, degrading, humiliating and distressing. Immediate responses to an assault can range from numbness and disbelief, causing one to appear calm and rational, to extreme anxiety, fear and disorientation. Rape violates your self respect, causes humiliation and embarrassment. You deserve and need support. Women who have talked about it afterwards feel less guilty and ashamed because they were able to express their anger and discuss the crime as something that happens to many women. You must remember that RAPE IS NOT YOUR FAULT.




Male survivors


At present Irish society does not recognise the extent and reality of sexual abuse against boys and men. Some would even deny that male rape exists. Perpetrators of male sexual abuse are generally male, but can be female. Our contact with male survivors has shown that they come for help more readily where there is an environment of awareness and understanding of the extent of male abuse and the specific issues and dynamics. Sexual abuse and rape have, in the past, been seen as a largely female issue and support services have traditionally been regarded as filling a female need. However, all Rape Crisis Centres will either see male clients or refer them to the appropriate local service. Some centres will have partner organisations that see men only, and in many centres male counsellors and volunteers are available.





Understanding trauma

What is trauma?


In a dangerous situation the human defence system produces a certain set of reactions. We feel what is often described as an “adrenaline rush” which helps us to be more alert than usual. We focus all our attention on the immediate situation. We might disregard hunger, fatigue or pain. Emotional reactions to danger involve feelings of intense anger and fear. All these are normal reactions to danger. They mobilise us to fight or run. Traumatic reactions occur when our defence system is overwhelmed - when neither resistance nor flight is possible. Traumatic reactions affect all kinds of people – nobody is immune to trauma if exposed to it. In any dangerous situation when neither fight nor escape is possible we will experience profound and lasting changes in body and mind. Rape is one of the most distressing human experiences. It is an attack on the whole person. Therefore its effects are enormous. Most people who have been raped undergo severe distress which may affect their entire lifestyle. EXPECTING THE DANGER TO RETURN We might be expecting the danger to return at any moment and remain in a state of high alert for some time. Especially in the short term, it is very common to startle easily, react irritably to small provocations, be unable to sleep or eat normally. There may be intense anxiety and fear provoked by something that reminds us of the traumatic event. Fear and anxiety could also occur if something unexpected happens – however small that may be. THE TRAUMATIC EVENT STAYS PRESENT It may be impossible to forget the traumatic event. Especially in the short term, but not untypical even years later, the event can flood back into our memory with intense flashbacks or nightmares. These flashbacks can be very vivid and detailed – yet it might be difficult to express in words what is happening to them. The traumatic event may also stay present through re-enacting – we might find we seek out dangerous situations e.g. to prove to ourselves that the trauma has not affected us. Emotionally the trauma stays present with intense rage and terror; also we may feel ashamed and guilty and blame ourselves for what happened. (It was not your fault – the responsibility always lies with the perpetrator) TRYING TO ESCAPE IN OUR MINDS Many people experience a change in consciousness during trauma – if we cannot escape by actions we try to escape in our mind. We may experience a state of detached calm and not feel any emotion. We may deny that anything happened to us at all. We may have experienced the trauma as if observing from outside our body or as if it was happening to another person. We may not be able to remember parts of the traumatic event or the memory of it may feel completely unreal. Our body may have gone numb like under anesthetic. We may seek to escape the memory by taking drugs or drinking excessively. This is a normal reaction to a traumatic situation which helps us to survive in the short term. However it is important to realize that, in the long-term, it will be self-destructive and will need re-examining. Remember that it is possible to heal from the effects that trauma has on us. It is very important to get immediate medical attention after an attack




What are normal trauma reactions?


  • Changes in eating / sleeping patterns
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Self harm
  • Fear of going outdoors, or of being home alone, in the dark or unfamiliar places – other fears Variations in moods, intense and very confusing emotions, depression, embarrassment, anger, humiliation etc. or no emotions at all (may alternate)
  • Not being able to trust others, disruptions in intimate relationships
  • Compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)
  • Sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative
  • Sense of being completely difference from other people, isolation, withdrawal
The immediate crisis with intense flashbacks, fear, possible numbness or overwhelming emotions can last anywhere between a few days and a few months. Very often at this stage a sense of relief is felt. Some people may break off contact with family of friends who are aware of the sexual attack, and they feel that this will enable them to take control of their lives. It is important to stress that the trauma of an attack will have long term effects on your life and that in dealing with and examining these you have a right to support. In order to break the isolation imposed by the attack you need to have contact with others who acknowledge and validate your experience and how it has affected you. It is possible to heal from the effects of an attack or rape and to return to living a fulfilling life to your full potential.




Trauma and childhood sexual abuse


Many survivors who have been abused as children keep silent about what has happened to them. Abusers may be strangers, but often they are fathers, brothers, stepfathers, grandfathers or trusted family friends. Sometimes children may be abused by adults or young people of the same sex. Some are abused in groups: in residential settings, in sex rings or rituals. We are often too afraid to tell someone at the time. Our abuser may have threatened us not to tell or we may tell someone who does not believe us. Our abuser may have told us that the abuse is our fault, that we started it, that it happened because we were bad or different and that people would reject and punish us if they knew about it. Abusers sometimes threaten terrible consequences if we tell: that we will die or be sent away from home. As adults we mat still feel things that make it hard to trust anyone enough to tell them our story. Feelings of guilt and shame, terror, depression, fear of being overwhelmed by painful memories that bring it all back and feelings of self disgust can all prevent us from sharing our pain. The Pain and Trauma Continue After the Abuse Has Ended Many survivors feel they just want to forget the past, but can’t. Others feel they should be ‘over it’ by now, and may be told these things by people who are trying to be helpful but do not really understand. The sexual abuse of a child may be something that happens once or every day for many years. Some of us remember our abuse in vivid details, some only have vague feelings that ‘something happened’, others may have ‘forgotten’ for many years and only as adults find memories coming to the surface of our minds. Too Much To Cope With Alone Survivors often contact Rape Crisis for support because they find the memories of abuse are too much to cope with alone. Sometimes reports of sexual abuse in the media bring back memories or change in our lives, a new relationship, having a baby, there can be many ways in which memories of abuse can be brought back to us. We find we cannot bury the past and so seek help in understanding it and making sense of our feelings. We may have nightmares or flashbacks that we need to share with someone who understands. Some adult survivors of sexual abuse lack confidence; we dislike ourselves or blame ourselves or mistreat ourselves by starving, over-eating or drinking a lot to block out the pain. We may find it hard to trust people or have relationships that make us feel good. We may feel that we are over-protective of our children. We may feel that we do not deserve to be loved or happy and sex may be a problem because it triggers memories of abuse or because we feel under pressure to prove we are ‘normal’.





Useful numbers

Rape Crisis Centre Information





Gardaí/SATU Phone Numbers


Tullamore 057 9321305 Portlaoise 057 8674100 Mullingar 044 9384000 SATU Mullingar. 044 9394239/9340221





Opening Hours

Monday - Friday

9.30am - 5.00pm

Address

Tullamore Rape Crisis Centre C.L.G.,
4 Harbour View,

Store Street,
Tullamore,
Co. Offaly,
R35 T294

Freephone

1800 32 32 32

 

Phone

057 9322500

 

Email

rapecrisiscentretullamore@gmail.com