Alleged victim's 2-hour trip because Rotunda rape centre was closed
An alleged rape victim had to make a two-hour round trip to hospital for treatment because a specialist centre in the capital was closed.
The incident happened over the weekend, when a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Dublin could not facilitate the woman being examined, the Herald has learned.
She was then taken to Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, where the nearest SATU is located.
It meant the woman endured a two-hour round trip to Mullingar after the alleged attack.
The incident was described as "unacceptable" by Rape Crisis Network Ireland, which added that it was not isolated.
The woman was subjected to an alleged rape on Friday night at a location in the north inner city and reported the matter to gardai the following day.
She was then taken to the Rotunda Hospital on Saturday afternoon to undergo a clinical examination at the SATU.
This is standard procedure in an investigation that involves a sexual element.
However, the facility was closed as no specialist staff were available and gardai took the woman to the facility in Mullingar.
Officers from Store Street Garda Station are investigating the alleged rape. No arrests have yet been made.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland's executive director Cliona Saidlear said the closure of the Dublin SATU was "distressing and unacceptable".
"This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened," she said.
"The SATUs are dependent on a number of factors being available when they are needed - they operate on an on-call basis.
"There needs to be a full rota and support around it, because when there is stress on the system then there is a lack of availability."
There are currently six SATUs in Ireland, which provide specialist care for women and men aged 14 years and older who have been sexually assaulted or raped.
Specialist staff provide medical and psychological support to victims and help gardai with the collection of forensic evidence in relation to criminal investigations.
Dr Maeve Eogan, medical director of the Rotunda Hospital SATU, said staffing issues meant certain units were not operational around the clock.
She added that where a SATU was not open, it was being covered by another one of the six nationwide.
"Like many areas, there is an issue with staffing," Dr Eogan said.
"A particular unit may be 12 hours out of period. Consequently, there is a crossover to ensure that there are always trained personnel available.
"On Friday the Rotunda covered Mullingar and on Saturday Mullingar covered the Rotunda, while on Sunday each were fully available."
Earlier this year, a young woman who was raped while attending a convention in a Dublin hotel told of how she had to travel to the SATU in Mullingar after the attack because the one in the capital was closed.
Dominique Meehan, who waived her right to anonymity after rapist Keith Hearne was jailed last year, raised concerns over the availability of treatment and services supplied to rape victims in a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
In it, she highlighted a lack of SATUs and the confusion surrounding the services available for victims going through the justice system.
"I myself, having been attacked in Dublin, was sent to Mullingar as there were no SATUs available in Dublin and wasn't allowed to drink for six hours even though I had been orally raped," she said.
"No SATUs available in Dublin? A county with more than a million people to serve?
"One in four women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime and there is only one SATU in the Rotunda.
"It's utterly astounding that this has gone on for so long."