Gardaí are hoping to place officers in rape crisis centres from next year to encourage victims to formally report crimes, a senior member of the force’s protective services bureau has said.
Det Chief Supt Declan Daly, speaking at the publication of the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland's (RCNI) annual statistics on Wednesday, said low levels of reporting and high attrition rates from criminal justice process were causes of ongoing concern.
“Attrition in relation to sexual crime is an issue we will be focusing strongly on next year. We have to give every victim an opportunity, if they choose to pursue a case, [and reassurance] that they have the best services and supports.
“We know people are reluctant to report sexual crimes but I also know that every time we engage with those people…that we can give them that assurance and empower them to make that report.
“Next year hopefully we will begin that project where we will be embedded with the NGO sector. So every two weeks we may have guards sitting in NGO offices or on phones encouraging people to come forward. That’s a project we’re developing now, to see if it’s viable. I believe it is.”
The event, held online, heard 1,298 people availed of counselling at one of the RCNI’s seven centres last year. There were 12,069 counselling appointments and 10,706 helpline contacts.
Gender and age
Dr Clíona Saidléar, RCNI executive director, said the two major determinants of how sexual violence was experienced were gender and age.
While boys and girls aged under 13 experienced sexual assault in about equal numbers, for people aged 13 and older, it was a predominantly female experience.
“The time between sexual violence happening and accessing a rape crisis support service is 31 years,” said Dr Saidléar. “Obviously that is the entire rest of their childhood and on through important key moments in their adult lives. This is critical, that we haven’t got to them, that it’s taken 31 years and it really speaks to how we must engage better to reach those children at the time.”
Some children under 13 experienced sexual assault over a prolonged period – “a matter of years”, said the report.
Among 13-17 year olds “it’s predominantly girls, and the abuse moves from sexual assault to rape and its duration moves from prolonged years to hours”, she said.
“The median age of the perpetrator is now 20 and that reflects a lot of peer abuse, child-on-child violence. The gap between violence happening and accessing a support service is six years…which is a long time in a child and a young adult’s life.”
Among adults over 18, victims again are predominantly women, the crime is rape and it’s lasting an hour or number of hours. The median age of the perpetrator is 30. Within this cohort there is a “significant population”, comprising about 25 per cent of it, who experienced sexual violence within a context of domestic violence or coercive control.
“The vast majority of adults who were subjected to sexual violence over years disclosed that the abuse had been perpetrated by their partner/ex-partner. This abuse is over a period of years and comes with significant levels of additional forms of violence, including physical and emotional,” said Dr Saidléar.