Barbara Scully: 'I hate that I have to warn my daughters on dangers of a night out... but sadly I still do'
There is a moment, usually at around about 8.30 in the morning, when the front door bangs for the last time, signalling everyone has left for work, school and college, and I am alone.
I usually take my first coffee of the day, along with the newspaper, to the kitchen table to catch up on the stories and detail I may have missed the previous evening on social media.
The news at the moment is bleak enough but yesterday the front pages of the newspapers were enough to strike fear in the hearts of parents in general, and parents of girls in particular.
The headline told me that a young woman had reported an assault in a 'taxi' after her work Christmas party in Dublin on Saturday night.
The same story also gave account of another complaint of rape, allegedly involving a high-profile sports star on Sunday night/Monday morning in a Dublin hotel.
That's two complaints of rape in the space of a few hours in our capital city.
And these come just a week after a German woman reported a rape in the Christchurch area of the city.
As I sit and read the full piece over and over again, I realise that the details are so familiar and so very ordinary.
All of these young women had been socialising in our city and all ended up reporting a violent crime.
These women could have been me or, more likely, they could have been one of my daughters, the youngest of whom are 18 and 20. This is their city too.
How do I as a parent advise my girls about staying safe, when every bone and blood cell in my body screams that women are perfectly entitled to go out, have fun, get drunk and get home safely?
Why do I have to tell them to be careful, when they shouldn't feel any less safe than young men their age?
I have lived through two waves of feminism and still I find myself having conversations with my daughters that I really resent. But yet I have no choice but to talk to them. I have to ensure they are at least aware of the dangers.
And so last night we had a chat, again, about staying safe when they are out. I tell them to try not to get so drunk that they are incapable.
I tell them to stay in a group. I tell them not to go off with someone they don't know and to not let any of their friends go off either.
I tell them to watch their drinks and their friends' drinks and I hate it when they tell me that they routinely bring their drinks to the bathroom with them.
I hate that I have to tell them any of this stuff.
Ever since they were little, I have tried to raise them not to be afraid of the world, because I believe that there are far more good people than bad.
I have tried to teach them to be positive and to think positively; to embrace life and possibilities and be open to new experiences. And then I tell them to fear men they don't know.
Rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in various parts of the world, including Ireland, where the number of rapes reported to gardaí jumped by 28pc in 2017.
Bearing in mind that these are the number of rapes that were reported and we know that many will never be reported, the chilling truth is that we really don't know how many women were raped or sexually assaulted in the past year.
And we don't actually know how many women were raped in Dublin last weekend.
Gardaí have apparently said there is no need to panic about getting into taxis over the Christmas season, although this paper also reported that they did advise that people (read women) "take care of themselves" while socialising. And, no, I don't know what that means either.
And this is why I am so angry. Because I have no idea how my daughters should take care of themselves while socialising in order to avoid getting assaulted or raped.
I have no sons. But I cling to the hope that mothers of young men are also having conversations with their offspring, not just about consent and how it must be enthusiastically and freely given, but also about standing up to so-called 'laddish banter' and seeing women as some kind of treat they are entitled to help themselves to, especially if the woman has been partying and drinking.