Minister tells Dáil she is survivor of sexual assault

Josepha Madigan says few women her age not subjected to some form violence

During a debate in the Dáil on sexual and domestic violence, Minister of State for Education Josepha Madigan said she was old enough to know there are very few women her age who have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault - "I know this because I am one of them."

 

Minister of State for Education Josepha Madigan has spoken in the Dáil about being a survivor of sexual assault.

During a debate on action to tackle sexual, domestic and gender-based violence the Minister said she was old enough to know there are very few women her age who have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes.

“I know this because I am one of them. It will not come as a surprise to those of us of a similar age who have suffered this trauma. Sometimes, we have suffered it more than once. It was, and is, a lot more common than many believe.”

Ms Madigan, a family law solicitor, said that she always takes statistics she reads with a pinch of salt.

“Most victims do not report their crimes. There are many reasons for this, including shame, a fear of judgement and a desire to forget. It should not be this way.”

She said it was “important to state that not all abuse is continuous. There can be isolated incidents that can be just as damaging, either at home or outside the home.”

The Dublin Rathdown TD said there was no doubt that for someone watching this debate or who will read it later, “sexual assault or violation is taking place”.

Ms Madigan said “the scary part about sexual assault, in particular, is that the perpetrator is not always the random monster in the middle of the night, but often a friend, spouse, acquaintance or someone the person knows. It is a corrosive blight on female safety and morale”.

She said that the 36 women TDs and 18 female Senators may disagree on ideology and policy, “but on a completely personal and human level, we all agree on one thing: we are all very much a part of the unfinished democracy that is Ireland when it comes to the representation and treatment of women”.

She added that “how much we decide to share is a purely personal decision, but I know that I am surrounded in this House by remarkable, talented, strong women who are all doing their best to bring about a fairer and more compassionate Ireland, regardless of what challenges we may each have faced”.

Ms Madigan said there should be a full debate on constitutional reforms proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality.

Waiting for a response

She said she was waiting for a response from the Minister for Equality to her correspondence on the establishment of a special Oireachtas committee.

The Minister added that she would also “be grateful for a response from the Taoiseach” on the matter.

She said they must do everything possible to prevent domestic and sexual violence, but “we must also be realistic, and acknowledge that new victims will continue to experience violations”. So they had to be very aware of the impact of new third national strategy on both new and existing victims.

Ms Madigan said she hoped it would “place a priority on prevention and reduction and should hopefully include a national preventative strategy”.

Men also suffered from sexual assault and violence and “should be supported wholeheartedly but it is simply a fact that it is a much more prevalent issue for women. The violence emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, resilience and shared humanity”.

Ms Madigan quoted from the “powerfully tragic” Annie Lennox song “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)”, on how victims of sexual assault continue to feel:

“And so I face the wall

Turn my back against it all

How I wish I’d been unborn

Wish I wasn’t living here”