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Sunday 15 September 2019

We still blame victims of rape including children, warns support group

Rape Crisis Network administrator Claire Geldhill and executive director Cliona Saidlear at the launch of group’s annual report. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Rape Crisis Network administrator Claire Geldhill and executive director Cliona Saidlear at the launch of group’s annual report. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gavin White

Victims are being "blamed" for rape and sexual assaults from the age of 12, while there is still no definition of consent in law, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has warned.

"Everything around sexual violence hinges on consent. It makes no sense not to have a definition of it in our law when it is so pivotal. I would say it's so critical that we must define it in law," RCNI executive director Clíona Saidléar said.

Speaking at the launch of the RCNI's annual report for 2015, Ms Saidléar said: "That culture of 'just get on with it', 'just be quiet' and 'don't name it' has really been challenged."

The RCNI laid out its concerns about teenagers and consent.

"Under the law, they have no capacity to consent. Often in society, we are asking 'how did they behave?' or 'what did they do?'

"All those victim-blaming questions - we tend to start asking those of teenagers at a very young age. So from the age of 12, 13 and 14 up, we start to ask girls what they did to 'ask for it'?" said Ms Saidléar.

It also revealed that a startling 65pc of victims had not previously reported their crime to formal authorities.

"The figure of 65pc who don't previously report it and come to rape crisis centres - they have no other voice bar this data," Ms Saidléar said.

"Rape Crisis Network Ireland's data fills a gap in the gathering of accurate and reliable information from survivors of sexual violence who have not reported to any formal authority."

The report found:

  • 1,384 people accessed counselling and support from Rape Crisis Centres across the country;
  • 85pc of perpetrators were known to their victims and 67pc of survivors were exposed to physical, emotional and psychological abuse as well as sexual violence;
  • 17pc experienced multiple incidence of sexual violence;
  • 24pc of those who became pregnant following rape accessed abortion.

RCNI also launched a second report on survivor feedback for An Garda Síochána.

Some 69pc of survivors said they were "treated in a sensitive manner that their complaint was taken seriously and gardaí were attentive, sympathetic and supportive".

"We commend gardaí's continued prioritisation and efforts to change culture and practice through specialist roles, and infrastructure, with the establishment of new regional protective services units, which will deal with a range of sensitive crimes such as sexual violence and domestic violence crimes," Ms Saidléar said.

However, Ms Saidléar bemoaned the network's drop in funding.

"RCNI has received no funding from the child and family agency Tusla for two years. Because of this, we were unable to continue to provide the support we used to to the sector in relation to policy and guidance."

The RCNI released its report on the same day that statistics released by the Central Statistics Office showed the number of sexual assaults in Ireland increased 6.6pc in 2016.

Some 2,446 sexual offences were recorded in 2016, compared with 2,294 the previous year.

There were 61 homicide offences, one more than in 2015. But the largest recorded decrease in crime was in the burglary and related offences category, down 31.2pc or 8,857 fewer incidents.

The CSO figures were compiled using data from the Garda Pulse computer system.

Irish Independent

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