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Sinead Ryan: Shocking sex assault stats from Rotunda put festive celebrations in context

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Attack: Some 310 women presented at the Rotunda Hospital's sexual assault  last year

Attack: Some 310 women presented at the Rotunda Hospital's sexual assault last year

Attack: Some 310 women presented at the Rotunda Hospital's sexual assault last year

I have two drinks parties this week. That's on top of the three last week.

It's all good fun, and it's Christmas after all.

So don't you just hate party-poopers who ruin it all with their 'sensible' advice? The biggest decision I want to have to make is what to wear, not how I'm expected to behave when enjoying a few well-earned scoops with friends or at the office shindig.

And who cares if we meet a few wayward, staggering groups merrily wending their way through the 12 Pubs of Christmas in fetching Santa hats ... sure you're probably a bit jealous you weren't asked along.

But some shocking figures have put a halt to this.

assault

They come from the sexual assault unit at the Rotunda Hospital which treated 310 women last year. Ten men were also treated.

They found that 218 of the female victims had drank a relatively large amount of alcohol prior to their attack - the average being 12 units.

A unit is a small glass of wine. Now if you say "six pints" it doesn't sound so bad, but it's approaching a woman's average weekly consumption, which is 14 units.

At 12 units, your blood alcohol level is up to 200 mg, which causes unsteadiness, blurring of vision and poor reaction times if, say, you were in a dangerous situation, like an impending assault.

Before I go any further let me be absolutely clear about on one thing: no woman, no matter how drunk or impaired ever deserves to be sexually assaulted.

She is not 'asking for it', ever. It is irrelevant how she is dressed, or what alcohol she drinks, or if she drinks at all.

She is a victim. Men who rape may or may not do so when drunk, but as rapists they are all the same.

That said, 41 of the women treated in the Rotunda Hospital's unit were so drunk they couldn't remember whether or not they'd been attacked.

Many couldn't remember how many drinks they had had but one assumes they were, in the vast majority of cases at least, voluntarily imbibed.

In these case we're not talking here about spiking drinks or drugs being popped in glasses. We're talking about probably perfectly ordinary women, who hold down jobs, have families and kids. They're letting their hair down, not alcoholics.

According to statistics one in four such victims chooses not to make a complaint of assault to Gardai.

The most common time for victims to present to the Rotunda Hospital's unit is Monday and Tuesday. After being treated, offered tests for STDs and given the morning after pill if needed, they're discharged.

In the wake of such an attack shame, embarrassment, anxiety and distress are all likely emotions. Fear and panic are others, while the victim waits to see if she's contracted a disease.

notion

Rape is always rape, but women absolutely have a personal responsibility to mind themselves. It is very easy to buy into some misplaced feminist notion that women should be able to act as they like, drink as they like and put themselves in harm's way and it is entirely up to men to stay righteous, sober and in control.

That may be an ideal, but it is simply unrealistic.

Women who are themselves so out of control of their body and brain that they cannot function are not just leaving themselves open to harm by others, but also to harm from accidents, like falling down or walking out in traffic.

Those that make it to the Rotunda Hospital's unit are aware enough that something has happened and are brave enough to seek help.

But reading of the number of cases at the unit how many of us will view the "few Christmas drinks" or "the girls' night out" in quite the same way ever again?


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