Almost 13,000 people contacted the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in 2017 – an increase of 500 compared to the previous year.

The 24-hour helpline run by the centre had 12,855 contacts in 2017.

The news comes as the centre releases its newest report, which also revealed that more than 34% of calls made to the centre were in relation to child sexual abuse.

More than 250 people were accompanied by centre personnel to examinations at the Sexual Assault treatment unit in the Rotunda, according to the report, with personnel also providing support on 53 days in 2017 to victims who were making a criminal complaint at a garda station, or in court.

The report was launched on Monday by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the centre’s offices in Dublin.

Commissioner Harris said: “It is a privilege to be present to launch this report which shows the vital work being done by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in providing victims of serious sexual assault with victim-centred services.

“This helps to inform the work of An Garda Siochana and other agencies in dealing with these victims.”

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said: “We are pleased to be launching this report during the annual international campaign of Sixteen Days of Activism against Violence against Women.

“While we support and provide services to people of all genders, it is noteworthy that sexual violence is predominantly perpetrated against women and girls.

“This means that there needs to be a particular emphasis on eliminating or at least reducing the level of sexual violence against them.”

Blackwell also addressed the treatment of victims within the criminal justice system in Ireland, following heavy public criticism of the handling of sexual assault cases in court in the past year.

She pointed at a lack of specialist units and investigators to handle ‘sensitive investigations’ such as rape or sexual assault, saying a mishandling of these cases can lead to victims withdrawing from the criminal justice system.

Blackwell added: “When you combine this with the systemic difficulties of our court system in such trials, it is little wonder that there is such a high rate of drop-out between reporting and trial and even a very low rate of reporting.”