RapeCrisis Midwest has said there was a marked increase in calls to its helpline during the first phase of the pandemic, many from those aged in their 40s who were confronting past sexual abuse for the first time. 

The support agency, which deals with calls and counselling services in Limerick, Nenagh, and Ennis, said there was a 54% increase in calls to it between 1 March and 30 September.

But it also saw a 58% increase in calls from people aged 40-49, with many calling about sexual abuse in the past, often when they were children, and many were seeking help for the first time. 

Counsellors believe that the long stays at home and people being away from the everyday business of life may have triggered many people to think about their past lives and to take the time to seek help. 

Miriam Duffy, Director of RapeCrisis Midwest, said if there was anything positive from the lockdown, it was that people in that age group who were stuck at home, had a chance to take stock of their lives and seek support.

The agency also said 80% of those who seek help or counselling suffered abuse as children and are only addressing the issue in their 30s, 40s or 50s, with some only seeking help after their abuser dies. 

15% of its clients are men who also suffered childhood sexual abuse. 

As it deals with an increase in calls for help and support, the agency has seen a 75% decline in fundraising income. 

Many staff worked remotely during the pandemic, often working late into the night to facilitate clients who could not speak to counsellors during the day when young children were around. 

Ms Duffy said the pandemic had placed a huge strain on staff, and looking forward to 2021 and given the fundraising issues, it is possible services could be affected.