More than half of sexual violence reports against partner included rape

Women’s Aid has received 2,417 disclosures of rape by current or ex-partner since 2002

Women’s Aid received 607 disclosures of sexual violence by a current or ex-partner to the charity in 2017, which included 323 reports of rape. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Women’s Aid received 607 disclosures of sexual violence by a current or ex-partner to the charity in 2017, which included 323 reports of rape. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

More than half of all reported incidents of sexual violence made to Women’s Aid last year against current or former partners included reports of rape.

The charity said over the last 15 years it has received 2,417 reports of rape by a current or ex-partner.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said there is a “high level of prevalence” of rape being reported against boyfriends, partners and husbands.

There were 607 disclosures of sexual violence by a current or ex-partner to the charity in 2017, which included 323 reports of rape.

“Women who have been raped by a partner or their husband feel a deep level of shame. It is a really difficult situation for women,” Ms Martin told The Irish Times.

“They feel so isolated and that they can’t talk about it with friends or family. If there’s children involved, it makes it even more difficult. They don’t want to criminalise their children’s father.”

Ms Martin said while there is a “good discussion” about consent among young people and in new and emerging relationships, there hasn’t been the same focus for those in long-term relationships.

Problem across the board

“This is a problem right across the board from ages 18 to 80. We’ve had calls from women aged 70 to 80, they are a forgotten group in a way,” she said. We get calls every day, sometimes from women who never knew that we existed.”

Martial rape did not become a crime until January 1991 after the introduction of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990.

Since then, there have been just four convictions for marital rape in the State.

Last July, a jury in the trial of a man accused of raping his wife on Christmas Day in 2003 failed to reach a verdict.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre called for an urgent review of the law relating to martial and intimate-partner rape following the success last month of a 43-year-old in having the length of his prison term imposed after he was convicted of marital rape cut by 18 months at the Court of Appeal. His original sentence had been 10 years in jail.

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said “our concern was the rape was taken out of context”.

Isolation

“While the Court of Appeal recognised the serious nature of the rape, they took the view that it should be viewed in isolation from all the other assaults and threats by the woman’s husband in the same period.

“This woman’s husband threatened to kill her . . . Her car was rammed by him, he denied her permission to remove their young son from the house. He put her and her mother and her family in total terror.”

Of the 495 clients seen by therapists at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year, 16.5 per cent had been raped by a boyfriend or partner.

“While I don’t think victims are afraid to come to us, that number is certainly not going to court,” Ms Blackwell added.

“It’s a whole other thing to report it to the guards as a criminal offence. What makes it so different is there is generally consensual activity in most relationships and the rape is against a backdrop of regularly consenting to sex.”