Tuesday 17 September 2019

Reports rise about rape in relationships

Women 'rethinking attitudes' over sexual abuse from their partners, says crisis centre chief

Annual report showed that a number of women have reported being raped by people they met through online dating websites
Annual report showed that a number of women have reported being raped by people they met through online dating websites
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Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) has seen a rise in people who are "rethinking and re-evaluating their attitude to their sexual activity" in current and former intimate relationships and reporting rape by a partner or previous partner to the organisation.

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the RCC, says the centre "regularly" hears from people who are "ready to look again" at sexual activity, which they believe was non-consensual with a current or former partner.

"We regularly get people who are in intimate relationships where they have suffered rape or sexual abuse and it is only occurring to them that they can talk about it and that they don't have to put up with it."

Describing how rape can happen in "a much more subtle way" within an intimate relationship, Ms Blackwell said: "This is a very contested area at the moment and this is where an awful lot of people in relationships - or who have been in relationships - are rethinking and re-evaluating those relationships. Where both parties in the relationship are re-evaluating their attitude to their sexual activity."

She continued: "Sex with no consent is what we are concerned about and that can be a very difficult area in a relationship. People will engage in sexual activity in a relationship for many, many reasons, it's not always passion and romance. As part of their relationship, they will have consensual sex in a wide variety of circumstances so that is fine but on the other hand some people have been having sex without their consent simply because they thought their was no alternative."

She explained: "This can be even in existing relationships, where people are coerced into having sex without their consent, where they are not ready, where - for instance - they might have had a child recently and don't feel up to it, where they might not want sex with someone who is drunk or, as part of the argument, someone can dominate and abuse their partner in the relationship and require their partner to have sex. And these are the areas that are much harder for us to talk about as opposed to the 'easy' ones where it is clear there was no relationship or previous consensual sex."

Ms Blackwell commended the women for coming forward, saying: "It is another area in which women's rights are being interrogated in a way that previously wasn't possible and I credit a lot of really good women - and also good men - with thinking this through and being ready to look again."

She added the action required in dealing with the relationship assault may vary from person to person: "In fact, there is a really good chance that a lot of people will say 'I was raped on that occasion because I was not consenting'. And they will need to do no more about it than that. Simply accept 'that [assault] was there, it wasn't consensual, some harm was done' and they are able to cope."

Meanwhile, the annual report also showed that a number of women have reported being raped by people they met through online dating websites.

Ms Blackwell said: "Dating sites have made dating very, very fast. There is an element that it's 'just a transaction' to a certain extent and there is no doubt about it that the dating sites themselves need to take more responsibility for ensuring that they are giving people the proper warnings."

She said social media sites also must be "much better at allowing people to report 'unhappy transactions'".

Describing how "dating sites are making so much money and they have so much power in bringing people together, often very happily", she said the dating firms also had a responsibility to deal with those using their platforms "for abusive purposes".

Ms Blackwell added that there was great difficulty in handling the fallout of reports of rape on dating sites, given the lack of traceability: "All we know is that at the end of it some people have been harmed, upset and raped by people they met through internet dating sites and often times there is no way of that person being held, even privately to account."

Sunday Independent

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