It has emerged there are staffing gaps in all six Sexual Assault Treatment Units which serve the country - despite a 20% increase in the number of people attending them since 2015.

The figures are revealed in a documentary for RTÉ's 'The Big Picture - A Woman's World' which was broadcast tonight on RTÉ1.

865 people were treated at hospital Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) in 2017 - a rise in referrals for the third consecutive year.

The figures, contained in the National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Annual Report 2017 also show that 30 people had to be referred from Dublin to Mullingar because of reduced services at the Rotunda Hospital.

There are six Sexual Assault Units serving 26 counties, and RTÉ has learned that all have staffing gaps.

This means that while many patients will have to travel to their nearest unit, there is no guarantee that they will be seen there.

Dominique Meehan was 23 when she was raped in Dublin in 2015.

She could not be treated at the Rotunda because the Sexual Assault Unit was not available and she had to be transferred to Mullingar instead.

She said it was five hours before the forensic examination could be completed, during which she could not wash, drink or use the toilet.

She said: "I think it added to my trauma in every way. SATU is the hardest for me to talk about of my whole attack. It's SATU.

"The nurse and the doctor that were there didn't leave my side the entire time. The nurse held my hand the whole way through. The fact that they were so nice to me honestly somehow made it worse."

The attacker, Keith Herne, was sentenced to 12 years after pleading guilty to rape.

National SATU services said it is hoped that new forensic staff examiners will become available by September next year.