Historic sex abuse victims waiting average of 20 years to come forward

Females were victims in 69% of older cases reported, compared to 89% of recent incidents

Victims of historic sexual abuse are waiting an average of 20 years before going to gardaí, with males waiting significantly longer than females, new figures suggest.

Data on serious crime victims from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there were 1,023 reports last year of historic sexual violence - defined as abuse which occurred at least one year before the report was made.

Eighty three per cent of these reports referred to sexual abuse which occurred during childhood.

On average, victims of historic sexual abuse who reported last year had waited 20 years to come forward. The average reporting age for men was 40, compared to 30 for women.


The CSO said the figures were released “under reservation” which “indicates that the quality of these statistics do not meet the standards required of official statistics” it publishes. The CSO has previously expressed concern about the reliability of the data inputted into An Garda Síochána’s Pulse system and last week said the health warning was unlikely to be lifted before 2022.

The statistics show historic sexual abuse continues to make up a large proportion of reported sex crime. A quarter of victims of sexual violence (683) reported abuse which occurred at least 10 years ago.

The profiles of those reporting historic sex crimes differs significantly from those reporting offences that occurred in the last year. Females were victims in 69 per cent of historic sex crimes reported compared to 89 per cent of recent offences.


There were 1,754 reports of recent sexual violence last year, a third were from females aged between 18 and 29 at the time of the offence. Another third were females aged under 18 at the time and 24 per cent were females aged over 30.

There were 192 male victims of recent sexual violence. Compared to females they were much more likely to be a child at the time of the abuse; 58 per cent were aged under-18.

However, women constituted the vast majority of those reporting sexual violence (including historic and recent) with 82 per cent of the 2,771 victims being female.

Clíona Saidléar, of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, said the figures show rape and sexual assault are “highly gendered” crimes.

“With women and children being the majority of the victims and males accounting for the majority of perpetrators, it is vital we understand this if we are to work on successfully preventing sexual violence.”

Men continued to be the primary victims for non-sexual serious crimes. There were 57 male homicide victims (77 per cent) and 17 female victims (23 per cent) last year. Twenty-one of the 28 victims in cases of dangerous driving causing death were male.

A third of homicide victims were aged between 18 and 29 and 15 per cent were aged 60 or above.

There were 18,939 reports of assaults, threats to kill and harassment, 59 per cent of which came from men. Younger people were more likely than any other age group to be a victim of such crime with 32 per cent aged between 18 and 29 at the time and 32 per cent aged between 30 and 44.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times