Home > National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Services annual report, 2019.

Walshe, Catherine (2020) National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit Services annual report, 2019. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 75, Autumn 2020, p. 17.

PDF (Drugnet 75)

Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) provide clinical, forensic, and supportive care to victims of sexual violence in Ireland. There are six SATUs across Ireland, including Waterford, Mullingar, Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Letterkenny. SATUs offer three streams of care for survivors of sexual violence. These include forensic examination following the reporting of the crime to An Garda Síochána; health assessment and care without reporting the crime to An Garda Síochána; and healthcare and forensic examination with safe storage of evidence allowing for subsequent reporting to An Garda Síochána. 

The national SATU services publishes an annual report on service provision. Identifying patterns and trends in service utilisation provides each SATU with the opportunity to adapt to service user needs. This article summarises the 2019 annual report.1 

Key service user statistics

The SATU annual report collects key demographics on service users and service provision. Some 943 people attended these services in 2019. An additional two service users attended SATU in 2019 compared with 2018, representing a 1% increase of SATU attendance. This is the fifth consecutive year SATU attendance figures have increased. In 2019, some 93% of service users were female and the mean age of service users was 26 years.

Of the 943 reported incidents, 67% occurred indoors, with 21% in the assailant’s home and 21% in the victim’s home. Some 675 (62%) of 1,084 perpetrators were described as ‘stranger’ or ‘recent acquaintance’; 177 (17%) as ‘friend’ or ‘family member’; while 94 (9%) were described as an intimate (or ex-intimate) partner. Sixty-three per cent were referred to SATU by a member of An Garda Síochána and 16% were self-referrals. 

Drug and alcohol use

The current report gathered statistics on service users’ drug and alcohol consumption. According to the findings, 422 (45%) had consumed more than six standard drinks, while 194 (21%) had consumed less than six standard drinks.2 Some 242 (26%) had consumed no alcohol in the 24 hours prior to the incident. In relation to drug consumption, 684 (73%) had not taken any drugs, 143 (15%) had taken recreational drugs, and 22 (2%) had taken both recreational and prescription drugs in the 24 hours prior to the incident. Some 153 (16%) expressed concern that drugs (including alcohol) had been used to facilitate the sexual assault. According to data collected by the Rotunda Hospital SATU in Dublin, concern about drug-facilitated sexual assault has increased over the years, with 9% of service users expressing concern in 2017, 13% in 2018, and 20% in 2019. 

Harm reduction and service improvement

To reduce the physical impact of sexual violence, all SATUs provide Chlamydia prophylaxis, hepatitis B vaccination, and risk assessment for HIV postexposure prophylaxis. In 2019, some 64% of service users received Chlamydia prophylaxis, 61% commenced a hepatitis B immunisation programme, and 10% began postexposure prophylaxis for HIV. SATUs offer sexually transmitted infection screening at the initial appointment or at a follow-up appointment. This offer was availed of by 75% (n=709) service users in 2019. SATUs cater for the psychological wellbeing of service users through the provision of psychological support workers. A total of 920 service users engaged with a psychological support worker during their initial SATU visit. 

The SATU dedication to service development and improvement is illustrated in the launch, publication, and implementation of the Department of Health’s SATU Policy Review3 to improve SATU services across the country. This includes upgrades to SATU environments. Continued education and upskilling of staff ensures the highest standard of service delivery. SATUs are striving to provide a more holistic service to attendees by encouraging attendance at follow-up, using a text reminder service and by providing referrals to other services. This interagency collaboration has also seen SATUs receive increased referrals from other services. Requests for education of schools and universities reflect a growing interest in reducing the impact of sexual violence in society. Representatives from SATUs deliver this education, which includes debunking rape myths and tackling issues of consent. 

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is currently undertaking a nationwide prevalence survey on sexual violence in Ireland.4 This survey intends to reflect changes in prevalence rates since the last survey was conducted on sexual violence in 20025 and to inform policy on sexual violence.


1 Eogan M (2020) National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) annual report 2019. Dublin: National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/32338/

2 One standard drink is a half-pint of beer, lager or stout (284 ml), a small glass of wine (100 ml) or a pub measure of spirits (35.5 ml).

3 Department of Health (2019) Department of Health policy review: Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs). Dublin: Department of Health. Available online at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/e9ee89-department-of-health-policy-review-of-the-national-sexual-assault-tr/  

4 Central Statistics Office (CSO) (2019) Press release: CSO to oversee new national survey on the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. Cork: CSO. Available online at: https://www.cso.ie/en/csolatestnewspressreleases/2019pressreleases/csotooverseenewnationalsurveyontheprevalenceofsexualviolenceinireland/

5.McGee H, Garavan R, de Barra M, Byrne J and Conroy R (2002) The SAVI report: sexual abuse and violence in Ireland – a national study of Irish experiences, beliefs and attitudes concerning sexual violence. Dublin: Liffey Press. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/3793/  

Repository Staff Only: item control page