There has been an increase in the number of people contacting the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, which received almost 14,000 contacts last year.

The organisation publishes its annual report today and is calling for more services to cope with what it calls a "growing problem for public health".

The DRCC said that income in 2018 was up on 2017, in large part because of donations after the outcome of a high-profile rape trial in Belfast involving two Ireland rugby internationals.

Writing in her overview for the report, DRCC Chief Executive Noeline Blackwell said: "Much of this funding came from public donations made anonymously through the DRCC website - and also via text - in the 90 days following the outcome of the Belfast rape trial of four young men, including two Ireland and Ulster rugby players.

"People told us of the upset about the cruelty of the court system and inappropriate social media messages."

She said the DRCC had ring-fenced the funds in to offer support to people attending garda stations and courts.

The centre will also launch its new online health initiative, which will start on a pilot basis later this year.

Last year, 270 people contacted the DRCC each week - the majority of them were female, and more than half were first-time contacts.

The DRCC, which runs the national freephone service, dealt with more than 13,000 contacts to its helpline, which was an increase of more than 500 on the previous year.

It said 45% of calls related to adult rape, while a third concerned childhood sexual abuse.

Chairperson Ann Marie Gill said that halfway through this year demand for DRCC's services is higher than it has been for many years, because more people than ever are disclosing abuse and seeking help.

The organisation said without current data, it is impossible to say whether the increase in demand for services is down to an increase in the level of rape or because of a growing awareness around sexual violence.

Almost half the clients using the 24-hour helpline, text and face-to-face services at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year were under 30 years of age. And 20% of adult rape victims said they were abused by a boyfriend or a partner.

The Centre's annual report, which was launched today by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, revealed that in 2015, the number of calls to the Centre specifically concerning rape stood at 2,876.

But by 2018 it had risen to 4,713, marking a 64% increase in three years.

In 2018 the number of crisis appointments stood at 2,187 which marked a 65% jump in demand since 2016.

The Centre says that at least seven Government departments and official agencies are dealing with what it calls the 'public health epidemic' of sexual violence. And it wants a properly funded whole-of-government approach to combating it.

DRCC National 24-Hour Helpline - 1800 77 8888