Analysis: Attacks heighten vulnerability among women

So far this year four women have died in Ireland by femicide

Anastasia Kriegel (14): her  body  was found at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin

Anastasia Kriegel (14): her body was found at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin

 

After the groundswell that was the #MeToo movement, there was a cautiously optimistic sense that, in terms of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, the world might be turning a corner.

Yet 2018’s news headlines have likely put paid to that. This week the deaths of two women brought the number of women who have died in Ireland by femicide so far this year to four.

On Monday the body of accountancy student Jastine Valdez (24) was found in Rathmichael, Dublin. The only suspect in the case, Mark Hennessy, was shot dead by gardaí the day before.

The body of Anastasia Kriegel (14) was found at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin, last week.

Some 63 per cent of the victims were killed in their  homes, and 88 per cent of women were killed by someone they knew

Last month the remains of 30-year-old Natalia Karaczyn were found on the outskirts of Sligo Town.

In February, the body of Joanne Ball was found in the wardrobe of an apartment in Ranelagh. Her husband, Keith Less, was accused of murder, and was found dead in Mountjoy Prison in April.

This week Women’s Aid called on the Government to launch a review of femicide in Ireland. Its report Femicide Watch, published last September, brought to light some unsettling findings.

Nine women had died violently in 2017, bringing the number of Irish women who have died violently since 1996 to 216. Of them, 17 per cent of cases have been unresolved.

Some 63 per cent of the victims were killed in their own homes, and 88 per cent of women were killed by someone known to them. In the 20 cases where a woman has been killed by a male relative, 16 were killed by their sons.

Perpetrator

A wider awareness is growing that most victims of femicide have a connection to the perpetrator, yet instances such as the seemingly random attack on Valdez heighten vulnerability and anxiety among women.

“These stories have a huge impact, although women are already assessing their safety the whole time,” says Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid. “There’s been another shift among them – fewer men are silent, and they’re challenging men’s sense of entitlement in public spaces.”

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, adds: “These two stories [of Kriegel and Valdez] are a reminder of the reality and the prevalence of violence against women in Ireland. [According to] the figures from the SAVI study of 2002, over a lifetime 42 per cent of women had suffered sexual abuse or assault.

“There is the reaction that this means that women must look out for themselves and be more fearful. That in turn excuses the person carrying out the crime, or implicates the woman in the crime.

“To be a safer [society] those who carry out crimes need to stop committing them. Those who know that crimes are being committed must call the perpetrator out. People should follow Garda advice on crime reduction, while at the same time bearing in mind that a victim of sexual abuse, including rape, is never, ever to blame.”

Education

“It goes back to some extent to education,” says Martin. “In primary school it’s all about ‘stranger danger’, but if you teach kids about healthy relationships in primary school, and if you give them the language and confidence to talk about it, if something does happen to them, it’s absolutely the right place to start.

“If you’re talking about consent to college-aged children you’ve missed the boat by a long shot.”

* The Women’s Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 is open seven days a week. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-hour helpline is 1800 778888.