Tuesday 16 July 2019

Editorial: 'Rising rate of sex attacks is a cause for grave concern'

Patrick Nevin. Photo: Collins Courts
Patrick Nevin. Photo: Collins Courts
Editorial

Editorial

It's a human reflex to look the other way when confronted with the dark and deeply repulsive, but when the subject is as stark as rape we have to look full on. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has appealed for more detailed and consistent information so that we can get a better understanding of rising rates of sex crime in the country.

New data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) records a 10pc rise from 2,938 to 3,231 in the year to the end of March.

We must not see these as "statistics" but as singular stories of violation and pain.

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Rape is something survivors live with for the rest of their lives. On the same day the CSO figures were released we heard from the courts how the so-called "Tinder rapist" Patrick Nevin committed three violent sex assaults within 11 days.

The court heard a woman describe a chilling ordeal: "To say I was terrified is an understatement.

"After he raped me I was convinced he was going to leave me for dead in that area, beside an old graveyard."

The serial sex attacker will spend 12 years in prison.

While it is to be welcomed that this rapist will be put away, the rise in violence against women needs to be addressed beyond the courts.

It cannot be confined to a legal framework but must be confronted at every social level.

We need to have a frank conversation on why the rates of reported sexual violence are rising.

Undeniably the abuse inquiries have removed some of the taboo.

Over the years we have seen how when survivors felt secure enough to break their silence, others took strength from their courage.

But it is unacceptable that we do not still know the full incidence of sexual crime because there are still issues about how gardaí record crime on their own systems.

Work is being done in schools in teaching how to recognise what is beyond the boundaries.

There can be no acceptance that any degree of force or coercion is acceptable.

Yet this is a message that does not appear to be getting through.

One might have hoped that there is no longer any room for debate or adjudication on points of violation. If someone is making someone do something against their will it is utterly wrong.

Consent is not there for negotiation.

But still somehow these very basic boundaries are not being recognised and have to be addressed repeatedly.

And it is men who must heed the warnings, for 90pc of sex crimes are against women.

If in the past there was a shaming tendency to caution women against being in certain places or not to wear certain clothes, today such nonsense must be dismissed and we must face a more blunt truth.

It was clearly never about teaching or preaching at women on how best to behave or defend themselves, but rather for men not to rape.

Irish Independent

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