Trauma of sexual violence is ‘complex’ and ‘layered’

Calls for increased training in judicial system following comments in rape sentence

Rape Crisis Centre responds to Justice Barry White's comments.


A spokesman for the courts service said yeserday that judges did undergo training in relation to rape cases . He was responding to concerns raised by the CEO of the Rape Crisis Centre who said that there was a need for judges to learn more about the impact of beliefs and attitudes which blame and punish victims of sexual violence.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop was speaking after the sentencing in a rape case in which the judge said he did not believe the victim had suffered a “profound psychological effect”.

Mr Justice Barry White sentenced Thomas Egan (47) from Kilmihil, Co Clare to 7 ½ years earlier this week after he was found guilty of raping a Brazilian woman he asked to clean his home.

On reading the victim impact report, Mr Justice White said the victim was “It strikes me that your victim is more interested in compensation rather than anything else.” He also told Egan, who paid the woman €50 at the time of the offence, that he couldn’t “buy himself out” of a custodial sentence.

Egan, a father of four, was convicted last May by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of raping the woman at a house in Tipperary on July 5th, 2010.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop believes the victim may have had difficulty in conveying the incident through English. “This was 23 yr old girl, coming from Brazil, so her first language is not English, culturally there will be differences,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

She added that in Brazil a civil case can run in conjunction with a criminal justice case and that compensation can be talked about very freely which may have caused some confusion to the victim.

“The trauma of sexual violence on a person is very complex and layered,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. “What is seen on the surface can be very misleading, it may not reflect what’s going on underneath.”

“A person might present as being rational and competent, but to the uninformed eye that might look like they’re not affected,” she said.

She added that judges need to know that victims often respond to trauma with “confusion” and “panic responses” when giving evidence or under cross-examination

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the the centre has offered to hold education programmes for the judiciary but that no judges have accepted the offer.

The centre has had input into the Garda Síochána training programme for over 15 years and said it has seen real improvement as a result. “Because of their training, it has really helped in terms of people feeling confident in reporting incidents,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

“It would be very valuable if we had the opportunity to give input into the judicial education programme.”

A spokesman for the courts service has responded to Ms O’Malley-Dunlop’s comments, saying there is ongoing training for judges by the Committee for Judicial Studies, chaired by the Chief Justice. “A wide variety of topics have been covered in judicial training which include legal and personal issues around sexual assault, rape and victims,” he said.

He added that in the past decade there have been many examples of judicial training in this area, saying judges had attended a Dublin Rape Crisis Centre conference on ‘Sexual Abuse and Violence - Responding to Change’.