Friday 20 September 2019

Rape survivor calls on Garda chief to be 'brave' and bring change for victims

Support: Rape survivor Lavinia Kerwick at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre annual report. Photo: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Support: Rape survivor Lavinia Kerwick at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre annual report. Photo: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Rape survivor Lavinia Kerwick has urged Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to be "brave" to effect change in the justice system for victims.

Ms Kerwick was speaking at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's annual report yesterday, where Commissioner Harris was also in attendance.

Addressing attendees, Ms Kerwick called for more Garda supports, and urged the commissioner to demand reforms of the justice system.

"If I didn't expose it, rape would remain silent - but rape isn't silent. It's brutal. It's violent and it hurts," Ms Kerwick said.

"Between the justice system and the rapist, they both tore my life to shreds. They left me with nothing and nowhere to go."

Ms Kerwick was 19 when she was raped by a former boyfriend on New Year's Eve in 1991.

Her attacker pleaded guilty to raping her and was given a suspended sentence.

Following this, the Co Kilkenny woman campaigned publicly against how she was treated.

Within a year of Ms Kerwick going public, new legislation was introduced, enabling victims to make victim impact statements to the court, as well as the ability to appeal against lenient sentences.

"Looking back now, I was brave, and that is now what I need you to be, Commissioner," she told Mr Harris.

"We are now at a crossroads and victims are crying out for change.

"I am going to now hand you back my bravery and ask you to go to the Minister for Justice, the judicial system, the rape crisis centres, victims and survivors and say 'let's work together'."

In response, Mr Harris said he was committed to addressing the concerns raised by Ms Kerwick.

"I hope people can see I have a deep and abiding commitment, and a personal commitment, to the prevention of such serious crimes," he said.

"Yes, I am up for the challenge and that means An Garda Síochana is up for the challenge."

Mr Harris also added that he would be working to ensure "consistency" in how these the crimes were investigated.

Irish Independent

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