24 children under the age of 14 have attended the HSE’s Sexual Assault Treatment Units last year, the organisation has revealed.
In total, 859 individuals attended the units - an increase of 17% since 2020 - and 78 were aged between 14 and 16.
The average age of the victims was 26 and 43 of the crimes involved multiple attackers.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland Executive Director Cliona Sadlier said children were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.
“We know how vulnerable children are - particularly as [they] head into puberty,” she told Newstalk. "11, 12 and 13-years-old."
“We know that this age cohort is particularly vulnerable and we know, unfortunately, that a large proportion of the people who are perpetrating these sexual offences against children are themselves children, or people the same age."
42% of those treated by the units had drunk more than six standard alcoholic units and Ms Sadlier warned that people must be made aware that alcohol is never an excuse for crime.
“The opportunity for sexual violence, one of the areas is in social settings and of course in Ireland all our social settings almost invariably involve alcohol,” she noted.
92% of the victims treated by the units were women.
Main image: A Health Service Executive (HSE) sign. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland.
If you are impacted by any of the issues discussed in this article you can contact the Rape Crisis National 24-Hour Helpline at 1800 77 8888.