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Reduced but ongoing presentations to sexual assault units

Attendances at the sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) service have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to preliminary figures that cover the period into the beginning of May. However, the Clinical Director of the national SATU service Dr Maeve Eogan said it was important to emphasise that “sexual violence has not gone away”.

“All six SATUs have remained open 24/7 for the duration of the Covid restrictions to date,” Dr Eogan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, told the Medical Independent on 15 May. A very small number of staff were redeployed to other hospital departments and the service “has remained fully functional”, she outlined.

“Most SATUs have noted a reduction in number of attendances. Overall, the six SATUs saw 77 patients between 12 March and 8 May, compared with 120 patients over a similar period in 2019.

“For example, the Rotunda SATU has seen 23 patients over the past eight weeks, compared with 53 patients over a similar period last year.”

Some 16 per cent of those attending the SATU services over the past eight weeks “disclose an assailant who is a family member, intimate partner or ex-intimate partner, compared with 9 per cent of those who attended over the same period in 2019”.

“It is important to emphasise that sexual violence has not gone away. Idle chat would frequently conflate all sexual violence with pubs, clubs and socialising — but you can see, even with very restricted social contact, 77 people needed our services. This highlights the myriad of complex risk factors underpinning sexual violence.”

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