'You feel helpless' - 40% of homeless people have been sexually assaulted


Michael Staines
Michael Staines

14.51 19 Apr 2021


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Four out of ten homeless people have been sexually assaulted, according to a new report.

The ‘Empowerment to Rights’ report finds that many did not report what had happened to them.

Researchers interviewed 100 adults accessing Ireland’s homeless services for the report and found that the Vast majority have been the victim of a crime since entering the system.

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It finds that four-in-ten have been raped or sexually assaulted, while nearly 60% have been sexually harassed.

Many said they were too scared to report what had happened to them – or did not believe anyone would listen to them.

"You don't do that"

"I did not report any of this because of fear of what would happen to me in the station," said one, while another noted that: "You don't do that, it will get worse."

One person said they reported being raped five times but the DPP “would not push the case forward.”

William Cummings from the BABS Empowerment Project conducted many of the interviews. He told Newstalk that many of the stories he was told were shocking.

“I mean a man telling me that he was raped by another man who wasn’t gay,” he said. “That he was just doing it to teach him la lesson.

“He is now terrified in his bed every night that somebody else is going to teach him a lesson and he feels like that is all he is worth. That he is a toy for somebody to play with.”

Safety

The report finds that only one-in-five people in homeless services feel safe – with more than 80% having experienced both violence and theft.

Some 84% said they were not comfortable making complaints about what was happening, with many reporting that if they do, they will lose their bed.

Anthony Flynn from Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) said victims don’t report crimes because they don’t feel they will be listened to.

“Many feel that they might lose their bed if they report an issue in regard to, whether it be sexual assault or their rights being violated within homeless service systems,” he said.

“We have to realise that we are now moving into a system where private emergency providers have basically taken over the homeless service system – it has become an industry.

“So, we are not doing what we need to be doing with regard to the proper provision of service for individuals.”

Meantal health

The majority of the interviews said their physical and mental health has deteriorated since entering homelessness.

Some 94% said they sleep less than six hours each night and 87% said they often experience feelings of anxiety and depression.

With reporting from Kacey O'Riordan


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