Fear of reporting sexual violence to Garda ‘depressing and predictable’

Social media increasingly used for harassment of victims, warns Bacik

Senator Ivana Bacik:
said it was sad that educated young people who suffer sexual violence should feel such reluctance to report the incidents. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Senator Ivana Bacik: said it was sad that educated young people who suffer sexual violence should feel such reluctance to report the incidents. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tue, Sep 10, 2013, 15:24

The findings of a survey on the incidence of sexual harassment, stalking, violence and assault make for “chilling reading”, Senator Ivana Bacik has said.

Addressing the launch of findings of Say Something, a student survey which reports on the experiences of more than 2,700 people in the Republic, the senator said the reluctance of victims to approach the Garda was worrying.

Fewer than 3 per cent of respondents said they would report sexual offences to gardaí, the survey said despite around 16 per cent reporting such offences.

As a criminal lawyer, Ms Bacik said she found the reasons offered for this were both “depressing and predicatable”.

She added: “In nearly 30 per cent of cases the respondent said they did not report the incident because they were ashamed or embarrassed. Some also thought they would be blamed or they didn’t want their family or friends to find out.”

Addressing the launch at Trinity College, she said it was sad that educated young people who suffer sexual violence should feel such reluctance to report such incidents to anybody. “This finding illustrated the importance of a study like this, highlighting the issues involved and informing students that they are not alone, that they can seek help if they have been victimised.”

The sort of behaviour outlined in the survey findings was unacceptable, she insisted. She warned that the forms of abusive behaviour had changed, pointing to online and social media harassment.

However, the senator said there was cause for optimism and initiatives taken by the USI help confirm the message that sexual violence was unacceptable.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said surveys such as Say Something were instrumental in forcing society to accept the reality and extent of sexual violence.

Gaps in the provision of support services for victims needs to be addressed, she said. “Young people don’t seem to know about these services. They don’t seem to know whom to turn to, they fear reporting and they don’t know that what has happened to them was a crime.”

Appropriate information about sexuality and relationships is not getting through, she added. “It is vitally important that we deliver age-related programmes across the board from primary right through to secondary and to third level.”

She said the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre looked forward to working with the USI to help change inappropriate attitudes and myths “so that we can have a more equal and a healthier society for everyone”.