Call to tackle role of alcohol in acts of sexual violence

Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 00:00

Heavy drinking and its role in sexual violence must be addressed if Ireland is to meet its human rights obligations, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland warns.

Executive director of the network Fiona Neary said there was a “relationship” between prevailing attitudes to women, sex and alcohol consumption and decisions to carry out acts of sexual violence.

The alcohol consumption pattern and its impact, combined with victim blaming, can leave many young people very vulnerable to sexual violence, she said. In a submission to the Oireachtas committee on justice earlier this year, the network said:

* 45 per cent of rape complainants and 40 per cent of suspects in Ireland had been binge drinking before the rape;

* Where alcohol consumption was known, nearly 90 per cent of defendants in rape trials had been binge drinking; and

* 10 per cent of all reported cases involved a complainant who was incapable of offering consent due to alcohol.

“There is an obligation on the Irish Government to target alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, and alcohol-related attitudes that are facilitative of rape,” said Ms Neary. In October, Ms Neary referred to the conviction of a boy for the rape of a 15-year-old girl at what she had described as a “drink-and drug-fuelled party”.

She said there was “clear evidence that Ireland’s binge-drinking culture leaves teenagers vulnerable to sexual violence”.

Sexual predators benefited from “popularly held beliefs” that girls and women who drink were partly to blame for being raped. She called for standards for alcohol marketing which did not permit sexual imagery or suggestion.

The State also needed to provide funding “for broad marketing campaigns that aim to dispel incorrect information about the effect of alcohol and to challenge rape-supportive attitudes including combating alcohol-involved rape, denial, minimisation and victim blaming,” she added.

The network has been campaigning through this year on the link between alcohol and sexual violence.

Among its recommendations are that a minimum price for alcohol be introduced, and that staff in bars and off-licences be trained in programmes that address harmful, culturally held attitudes towards alcohol consumption, sexual behaviour and gender roles.