The Irish Times view on crimes against women: we must never become inured to such violence

The killings of Ana Kriegel and Jastine Valdez are deeply disturbing

Abducted and killed:  a memorial to Jastine Valdez in Enniskerry. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Abducted and killed: a memorial to Jastine Valdez in Enniskerry. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

The investigations by the Garda and Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) into the unconnected killings of Ana Kriegel (14) and Jastine Valdez (24) will continue for some time but the facts, as already known, are deeply disturbing. And rightly so. It is inconceiveable that Irish society would ever become inured to such violence.

Ana, a first year student at Confey Community College in Leixlip, died last Monday week of blunt force trauma. Jastine Valdez was abducted from a road near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, last Saturday evening.

The only suspect for her abduction and subsequent murder by strangulation – Mark Hennessy (40) from Bray, Co Wicklow – was shot dead by an armed garda in south Dublin on Sunday evening. The remains of both women lay undiscovered for a number of days.

The circumstances of the two deaths are almost beyond comprehension. Yet it is essential that we do all we can to understand because with that comes the possibility of a constructive response. In the case of Jastine Valdez, gardaí have a considerable challenge to establish the precise sequence of events and are hindered by the deaths of murderer and victim. It will be important to find out, in as far as is possible, why Hennessy acted in the way he did. Were any warning signs missed, for example?

It is also in the public interest – and that of the Garda – that Gsoc’s findings in relation to the shooting of Hennessy are fully disclosed. The details already provided by the commission are a positive indicator in this regard.

Perspective is important too. This State is a safe place to live by international standards and the homicide rate has fallen over the past decade. However, in a period when many other types of crimes are in decline, an increasing number of sexual crimes are being recorded. Between 2003 and 2017, they rose by almost 90 per cent. This may be attributable in part to a greater willingness by victims to report crimes.

The digital world is playing a negative part. Evidence is emerging of young boys consuming graphic pornography before they have reached their teenage years. There is concern internationally that this phenomenon has already begun to contribute to increased sexual offending.

As society grapples with rapid advances in technology and evolving trends in sexual crime, more information about the possible relationship between the two is critical. A fresh approach to counting these crimes, and the public presentation of that information, would be a good first step. If we are to tackle increased sexual offending, and deal with how technology and pornography seem to be influencing factors, we must first measure and acknowledge what is happening.

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