CORK'S Sexual Violence Centre saw a 45 per cent increase in victims turning to the centre for help in 2018 in contrast to the previous year.
The shocking findings were published in Sexual Violence Centre Cork's annual report which is being launched by the charity's founder and director, Mary Crilly today.
Its contents revealed that the charity provided support to some 599 sexual assault victims in 2018 - an increase of 186 clients on the previous year.
Almost half of the women mentioned belonged to a minority group. The number of victims with an illness or disability accounted for one-tenth of the overall figure. Of the 599 clients who sought help from the centre, 54 were under 18-years-old.
Founder and director of the charity, Mary Crilly said they have become accustomed to seeing demand for their services increase with each year. However, the magnitude has resulted in increased waiting times for a number of services.
A total of 1710 counselling appointments were offered in 2018, in contrast to 1685 appointments provided in 2017, 1633 in 2016 and 1536 in 2015. These included initial sessions, crisis support and counselling.
The annual report stated that of the 599 assaults, 24pc took place at the victim's own house. Some 23.3pc occurred at the perpetrator's house. 7.7pc of assaults happened at a friend's house while 2.4pc of sexual assaults took place in hotels.
Other details of the report focused on the ages of the victims.
A total of 27pc of victims presenting to the charity were between the ages of 18 and 23. 19.2pc were between the ages of 12 and 17 at the time of the assault.
The charity revealed that 14.5pc of the sexual assault victims they helped in 2018 were between the ages of just five and eleven at the time of the assault.
Of the types of sexual assault experienced, 55.5pc of victims were adults. A total of 55.5pc were survivors who suffered at the hands of abuse during adulthood. 27.3pc had sought help for crimes that occurred when they were just children.
The majority of victims were female with just 8.9pc seeking support following sexual abuse in 2018.
Mary Crilly described the revelations as unsurprising.
"The increase isn't surprising," she said. "I welcome it because for once it's showing the reality of the situation. Even if it's not necessarily from the people who present to us, we are glad that there is an increase in reports to Gardaí. However, we are not seeing the follow up with convictions despite Gardaí gathering all the evidence."
She said that more needs to be done to alter damaging misconceptions around sexual assault.
"I still can't understand why this is being painted as a grey area. If an elderly person is sexually assaulted it's seen very clearly as power. However, it's not viewed in the same way when it happens to young girls. We need to stop asking the question "why are young girls being raped?" and instead ask the question "why are men raping young girls?"
Society still thinks it's normal to ask what a girl was wearing during the time of an assault. It's as if when something happens it should be their fault. We need to open our eyes and acknowledge that this is still happening. "
She reiterated the seriousness of the crime.
"If people were being knifed every day there would be an outcry. This is a crime that's happening every day, yet it is is being normalised."