CSO objects to mandatory conduction of sexual violence surveys

Central Statistics Office says data collection may place people at risk of further abuse

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has objected to European Parliament efforts to introduce mandatory surveys to gather data on sexual and domestic violence.

The CSO said it was concerned the collection of such data could put both respondents and interviewers at risk.

However, its resistance to mandatory surveying has attracted criticism from Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes who said he believed there was a need for "robust data on all forms of domestic violence".

While no exact parameters had been set out for the proposed research, “gender-based violence” would likely include domestic violence, sexual violence and possibly sexual harassment.


A number of other member states objected to the mandatory approach and a consensus view was eventually reached that a voluntary approach was preferable.

Mr Hayes noted the CSO’s previous criticisms of the quality of Garda crime data. “It was disappointing that there were objections raised by the CSO to the inclusion of a mandatory survey on gender-based violence,” he said.

“It is concerning that, on the one hand, the CSO is critical of Garda statistics on domestic violence yet, at the same time, it raises objections to EU initiatives aimed at improving the collection of domestic violence statistics.”

In a letter to CSO director general Padraig Dalton, seen by The Irish Times, Mr Hayes asked for further details on why the office believed such mandatory surveys might pose a safety risk.

Gender-based violence

“Is there not a case to be made that the collection of such data could help authorities, such as police and health, to devote proper resources to tackle the problem of gender-based violence?” he wrote.

Mr Hayes pointed out that other EU countries actively recorded such data.

In response, Mr Dalton said the CSO “recognises the need” for such information, and its value to policymakers and other institutions. The CSO, he said, is currently exploring how to provide such information and is considering a “crime and victimisation” survey in the fourth quarter of 2018, which could contain a module on gender-based violence.

But, he wrote, collecting such data “presents a number of challenges that will need to be carefully considered and addressed before collection can proceed.

“In particular, we are concerned about collecting information in relation to domestic abuse. It is quite possible that the perpetrator may be present when data collection is taking place as the current method of household survey data collection is face-to-face in the house.”

Domestic abuse

Mr Dalton said this scenario would have the effect of decreasing the reliability of information gathered. “But of far more concern is the fact that collecting data may place the victim at risk of further abuse.”

The Garda Pulse system, Mr Dalton said, contains data on crime incidents with a motive of domestic abuse but the quality of this data is “not sufficiently statistically robust” to be published.

In a separate statement, the CSO said it would have conducted the survey had the EU ultimately required it.

The CSO is a member of the Eurostat Working Group on Crime Statistics and is currently researching best-practice approaches to gender-based violence research. "The CSO needs to ensure that it can satisfy data needs in a manner which is sensitive to victims of these crimes and does not place them at risk of further harm," it said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times