Minister backs forum to tackle sexual assaults on students

Merit in Garda contact with college authorities and rape crisis centres, says Flanagan

The Fianna Fáil leader said he was alarmed at reports that three college students had been raped in Cork since the start of the academic year. File photograph: Getty Images

The Fianna Fáil leader said he was alarmed at reports that three college students had been raped in Cork since the start of the academic year. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has expressed support for the establishment of a Garda forum with third level institutions and the Rape Crisis Network to deal with sexual assault of students.

Mr Flanagan was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in the Dáil. Mr Martin said he was alarmed at reports that three college students had been raped in Cork since the start of the academic year.

The women involved were 18 and 19 years of age and Mr Martins said “the most alarming fact is the three women did not feel they could go to the Garda because of the circumstances of the sexual assault and the rape. They went to the rape crisis centre. They felt it was their own fault as alcohol was involved; two of the three women have already dropped out of college.”

Mr Martin noted the research suggesting September and October could be the most dangerous time for young women, particularly first-year students going to college. And he noted the report on Wednesday of sexual assault in Galway.

He called on Mr Flanagan to convene an “urgent forum involving the Garda Commissioner, representatives of the Rape Crisis Network, leaders of third-level institutions and the Higher Education Authority to begin the process of looking at this in a more comprehensive way than we have done to date”.

What the Minister said

The Minister said he shared Mr Martin’s concern. And he was “engaging with Garda management on the issue and with interested stakeholders and advocacy groups”.

“There is merit in making contact with the management teams in our third-level colleges. I acknowledge the importance of the Garda protective services unit, which is engaged on the ground in ensuring those who report crime of a sexual nature are dealt with in a most compassionate and comprehensive way,” said Mr Flanagan.

He urged any person and any young woman in particular “who suffers as a result of such criminal activity to report the matter to the Garda Síochána where there are structures available”.

Mr Flanagan said Tom O’Malley of NUI Galway was chairing a review of the practice and procedure of reporting on sexual offences. “There is merit in making direct contact on this specific issue with the heads of colleges and those involved in pastoral care in our colleges to ensure that anybody who suffers at the hands of a criminal receives an adequate and comprehensive response from the State.”