Rape is a crime of hatred, regardless of alcohol’s role

Opinion: The old culture of prohibition and punishment is slugging it out with the new culture of pornography

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 00:01

Christy Moore has written about the exiled Irishness he felt part of when he went to London in the 1960s, and to which the lyrics of Shane McGowan’s Fairytale of New York (our favourite Christmas song – set in the drunk tank) take him back: “It was macho and violent and sexist and racist and wild and drunk and stoned . . . and underneath it all lay tenderness but no words to describe it, and from that to show tenderness or affection could be misconstrued as weakness so f**k them all just in case.”

In 1983, I was one of a group of women who set up the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre and, in 2004, I wrote the history of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. So when Mr Justice Paul Carney warned last week that “if the current internet drinking contest takes hold, it is going to result in a tsunami of homicide and rape prosecutions coming before this court”, I looked him up in the index. There were so many rapes cases coming before the courts the situation was getting “out of control”, he said – in 1999.

That year, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre received 7,000 calls, an increase of 30 per cent on the year before. The backlog of cases coming before the courts meant victims had to wait for years for their cases to be heard. In 2002, Mr Justice Carney spoke out again about the suffering this was causing. It was, he said, “beyond comprehension”.

Mr Justice Carney has presided over probably thousands of rape cases. In 2004, he called for guidance on sentencing in the “significant and surprising” number of cases in which a woman would become tired at a party, find a bed and lie down, only to wake up and find a man having sexual intercourse with her. This followed a case in which the appeal court set aside a custodial sentence he had given.

The groundbreaking Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (Savi) report of 2002 found that 10 per cent of women have been raped and 21 per cent have suffered attempted rape or other serious sexual abuse. A new Savi report is long and disgracefully overdue. In 2004, there were 12,000 calls to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. During the two-month period of December 2013 to January of this year alone, it received over 2,000 calls.

Drink problem vs rape
And as for alcohol. In 1981, a man admitted killing 61-year-old Molly Daly after he became sexually jealous. The judge in the case said he was satisfied the accused had a “genuine affection” for the woman. “If it was not for the drink you would never have laid a hand on her,” he said. He adjourned sentencing, gave the man bail and ordered him to attend to his drink problem. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was “shocked and horrified”.

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