herald

Wednesday 25 April 2018

'Why must another rape victim have to make long trip for help, like I did?'

Dominique Meehan wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Dominique Meehan wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

A young woman who was raped while attending a convention in a Dublin hotel nearly three years ago has said it hurts her that another victim had to make a two-hour round trip to a midlands hospital because a specialist treatment unit in Dublin was closed.

When Dominique Meehan (25) was raped at a comic book convention in the Blanchardstown Crowne Plaza Hotel on July 4, 2015, she had to endure a long journey to the Mullingar Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) because the Dublin one at the Rotunda Hospital was not available.

In January, she wrote a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlining the need for more SATU facilities to be opened so that victims can be treated quickly and avoid having to travel long distances.

On March 10 a woman had to make the same long trip to hospital for treatment because the specialist unit in Dublin was closed.

The woman was allegedly raped the night before in Dublin's north inner city, and reported the matter to local gardai the following day.

"One of the points in my letter was about how it has become acceptable that a rape survivor should travel no more than two hours to their nearest SATU, and it's completely unfair to us as survivors who have just gone through the worst experience of our lives. Like everyone already knows, I had to make that same journey as the person," Dominique told the Herald.

"It was hell and no person should have to endure that, not when there are university hospitals in nearly every county."

Funding

"It's unfeasible to put a SATU in every university hospital as things stand with funding, but it's a choice between changing the way SATU works or forcing rape survivors to endure more hardship than is necessary.

"This current story has an easy fix, and it's opening more SATU units in Dublin because the Rotunda being unavailable is going to happen again and again until something is done," Dominique said.

"Personally, it hurts to think that this is something I've been talking about for so long and nothing has changed.

"There needs to be outrage if we're going to make any of this better," she added.

Officers from Store Street Garda Station are investigating the alleged rape earlier this month and no arrests have yet been made.

Dominique waived her right to anonymity after rapist Keith Hearne was handed down a 12-year sentence in June last year.

In her letter to the Taoiseach, Dominique stressed that she was not being critical of the services themselves.

She has become more involved in raising awareness around rape, treatment and justice systems.

The Rape Crisis Centre said Dominique's letter to Mr Varadkar was "the voice of an expert" and has backed her calls for changes to services to rape victims and their families.

Its chief executive, Noeline Blackwell, said Dominique's letter was one that Mr Varadkar should take notice of.

"Dominique is an expert on rape and the criminal justice system. She is an expert because she experienced it herself and her points and recommendations are written from that experience," she said.

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