Young people and sexual violence: Government failing to prevent rape and sexual violence while alcohol gets offenders off the hook.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald this morning (28th Jan 2014) launches new Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) research on Young People, Alcohol and Sex, undertaken by Pádraig MacNeela and his research team in NUI Galway.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘This report tells us that without Government action rapes that can be prevented will continue to occur.  The findings are so shocking that the government must immediately take action to prevent further sexual violence. Therefore  RCNI today also launches ‘The Older Child and Sexual Violence: Questions and Challenges in delivering a national response,’ which is a pathway for our government to address the serious gaps and failings in the protection of older children from sexual violence.

This research is relentless in demonstrating young people’s inability to talk about sex, never mind negotiate consent. The young people who took part in this research told us they were wholly unprepared for the task of negotiating sexual consent and thus were at risk of sexual violence. Naming crimes of rape and sexual violence remains very difficult for young people, other than in a far too narrow, uninformed manner. Growing up in a binge drinking culture for young Irish people means that reporting crimes and concerns to the appropriate authorities is rarely seen as an option – leaving young sex offenders free to reoffend causing trauma and lifelong harm to others.

Decreasing sexual violence is possible and our strategy document shows the way. This will only happen however with sustained resources and actions, in combination across Government agencies. There is little evidence of this at present in relation to the older child.

At today’s seminar Dr. Pádraig MacNeela’s will present the stark findings of his research. We are delighted to have with us one of the most published authors on the area of sexual violence and alcohol Dr. Antonia Abbey, from Wayne State University, Michigan, to further guide us in international evidence and best practice. After which Rape Crisis Network brings to you our reflections on the policy implications of this and previous research.

The Full Report, Summary of Findings and Recommendations and RCNI Policy Document will be available on www.rcni.ie after 10am on the 28th January 2014

Notes:

Findings of ‘Young People, alcohol and sex: What’s consent got to do with it?’ Padraig MacNeela, Thomas Conway, Siobhan Kavanagh, Lisa Ann Kennedy, & John McCaffrey, NUIG, 2014

For young people in this study:

  1. Consent is understood to be predominantly unspoken.
  2. Consent is expected to follow a highly gender stereotyped, heterosexual relationship model, with the male sex urge occupying an especially prominent position alongside a gate keeping female role.
  3. Alcohol consumption is understood to be a facilitator of the majority of sexual hook ups.
  4. Victims are expected to react in a highly uniform and passive way.
  5. Sexual violence that was other than vaginal rape of a female by a male was difficult to name.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Improve preparedness for negotiating consent through youth targeted engagement strategies to encourage the knowledge and skills required for applying the understanding of consent to a range of relationships and types of sexual activity.
  2. Promote a better understanding of alcohol as a source of risk and harm.
  3. Improve knowledge and attitudes to reporting sexual assault and seeking professional support.
  4. Support for a ‘decision point’ approach to managing consent to develop a skill-based approach for managing problematic consent situations.

Lowering the Age of Consent would compound State failures to protect the older child

Rape Crisis Network Ireland today strongly suggests to the Cabinet that it is not timely to consider the lowering of the age of sexual consent. The State continues to fail to meet its obligations to protect and empower children.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘RCNI read with dismay today that the Cabinet is to discuss lowering the age of consent to sexual activity today (17th Dec. 2013) from 17 to 16. RCNI are opposed to lowering the age. The age of consent is there to protect vulnerable children from coercion, pressure and abuse. The age of consent is not designed or used to punish teenage respectful experimentation.

‘Sexual experimentation and relationships between children are commonly far from benign. In RCNI’s latest report, Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence we found that 37% of the perpetrators of sexual violence against children were themselves children. These child perpetrators were near or of the same age as their victims.

‘When we live in a culture obsessed with protecting our children from the less common stranger danger and the older predator, it leaves the child being threatened and abused by a peer isolated and vulnerable. Already we struggle to empower these vulnerable children to even name their experiences of sexual violence in the face of an increasingly sexualised culture and the complicity of so many commentators and leaders who characterise these exploitations as romantic. In the face of these gross failures, the age of consent is one of the paltry supports we offer our vulnerable older children.

‘Lowering the age of consent may simply undermine the State and the justice system’s capacity to respond to these crimes.

‘RCNI would respectfully suggest that before consideration of lowering the age of consent the government might consider its statutory obligations in terms of supporting, protecting and empowering children, in particular, the neglected older child.

‘RCNI call on the Cabinet to consider urgent action on addressing the vulnerability of the teenage child. With insufficient resources, time and commitment our education system does not equip children to engage safely, within our cultural context, in respectful sexual relationships. Within the proposed new junior cycle even the little we have is to become an optional short course. There are no national guidelines or action plans to address sexual harassment and assault in our schools. There is no prevalence study of the everyday assaults and harassment teenagers are subject to by their peers. Specialist support structures are inadequate and under resourced. The nascent Child and Family Agency, Rape Crisis Centres and CARI services are not adequately resourced.

‘The State has turned a blind eye to the specific needs of the teenage child. To contemplate lowering the age of consent with so little done or said to address their vulnerability would be to compound this neglect.

‘RCNI continue to support the Minister Alan Shatter’s stance which he articulated in 2006 regarding the age of consent. In the Oireachtas Committee Report on Child Protection in 2006, lowering the age of consent was the only recommendation of 62 in total that did not receive the unanimous support of the Oireachtas Committee, it is therefore appropriate in our opinion that it would remain un-actioned.’

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RCNI welcome strong sentence for rapist Liam Adams

RCNI today welcomed the strong 16 year sentence and additional 2 years probation that was handed down to Liam Adams today in Laganside Crown court following his conviction for 10 counts of rape and indecent assault on his daughter.

Fiona Neary RCNI Director said, “Áine Adams has spent decades holding firm to the truth about her father’s abuse of her in incredibly difficult circumstances. Today that truth has been heard and vindicated at every level. The 16 year sentence given to Liam Adams is a serious and clear signal that acknowledges the full scale of the abuse he subjected Áine to from the age of 4 until‘she was 9.”

“RCNI also welcome that the sentencing judge gave serious consideration to post release conditions, sought the opinion of probation officers and included a two year post release probations period on the offender. RCNI would like to see this becoming a normal part of any sentencing process of a serious’sex offender.”

For information:
Clíona Saidléar
087 2196447

RCNI commend USI decision to break links with alcohol industry’s Drinkaware promotion as announced today

RCNI commend USI decision to break links with alcohol industry’s Drinkaware promotion as announced today.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said, ‘The promotion of alcohol consumption by drinkaware was rightly recognised by the Union of Students in Ireland as a normalising influence which strongly targets young people. USI’s leadership in this area is vital given the resources the alcohol industry can call upon to resist change to reduce alcohol harm in Ireland. A significant alcohol harm is the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland for example, the Rape and Justice in Ireland report (2009) found that 77% of the suspects in rape cases that the DPP examined had been drinking on the day of the offence.

‘It is important that organisations and those in authority make considered decisions about how and to what extent to engage in promoting a drinking culture in Ireland. For the RCNI, alcohol harm is such that the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, including minimum pricing and controlling alcohol sports sponsorship, is urgently required.’

For information: Cliona Saidlear

087 2196447

 

New RCNI Child Sexual Violence report findings call for new responses in Child Protection

Minister Frances Fitzgerald today launched a RCNI ground breaking report ‘Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence: Towards a National Response’. This report provides new data which can reduce child sexual violence crimes and protect vulnerable children more effectively.  It provides a better understanding of risk and vulnerability to sexual violence, confirming that sexual crimes differ in substantive ways across the age and gender of the child. RCNI today calls on Minister for Children to ensure the future funding for this essential data collection of sexual violence against children in Ireland.

report-thumb-hearing-child-2013

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said, ‘This report provides Ireland with the necessary data to deliver child protection more robustly – it is critical for children in Ireland that we continue to collect this high quality data on sexual violence crimes. It is a wide-ranging report with many findings and many recommendations. Both age and gender of the victim have been underestimated as factors in terms of the extent to which crimes of sexual violence differ. Age and gender have significant impacts in terms of:

  • Likely duration and severity of abuse
  • Relationship to the perpetrator
  • Involvement of a child perpetrator

This is the first time this data has been collected across 16 frontline services – Rape Crisis Centres and CARI. It is invaluable and can greatly assist in knowing where and how to target our interventions and responses to the best effect.

For example, teaching children ‘stranger danger’ is not sufficient, child protection measures must address the fact that most children are abused by someone in the family and someone they know. Messaging for children over the age of 12 requires a very different content to younger children, as the nature of abuse will be significantly different.’

Nature of abuse and relationship to Perpetrator

This report spells out that a child under 13 is most likely to be targeted for abuse by a family member rather than an acquaintance. The exact opposite is true for a teenage girl. We know that a child under 13 experiencing abuse is likely to be victimised for years, whereas a teenage girl is more likely to experience a one off incident that lasts for a number of hours.  Girls’ vulnerability to rape increases as she ages. Girls over 13 who attended RCCs in 2012 were most commonly subjected to rape and in the majority of cases, rape by their peers or those only slightly older. When assaulted, the girl child is more likely than a boy to be raped.  All of these differences impact on the child’s ability to disclose, to seek help and to access support. We need to understand these different phases of vulnerability to shape an effective Child Protection response that protects all children.

The Child Perpetrator

The rate of sexual abuse by children is also underestimated. 37% of all perpetrators of child sexual violence are children, 97% of those are males. This points to an urgent need to challenge culture and norms of gender and sexual inequality and in particular to focus our attention on boys. The WHO recommends we target age appropriate education and messages about consent and refusal, equitable sexual relationships and sexual communication to children of all ages (WHO/BZgA, 2013). Ireland’s formal education responses to sexual violence are optional and do not follow the 0 to 18 model of best practice.

Fiona Neary went on to say, ‘We do our boys and young men a grave disservice if we do not talk to them about consent, sexual activity and sexually harmful behaviours in a sustained and structured way at every opportunity afforded to the state and society. If we do not support, challenge and educate the boy child, we fail both the boy and the girl child. This is a much more valuable focus that teaching ‘stay-safe’ lists for girls, which are often impossible to achieve and can result in victim blaming attitudes.

‘What this new evidence shows is an urgent need for us to continue to deepen our understanding of sexual violence against children in order to prevent such violence and to increase access to disclosure, support and justice for those who have been victimised.’

Some findings and statistics from ‘Hearing child survivors of sexual violence: Towards a national response’

Common patterns of abuse

  • Children under age 13 are most vulnerable to sexual assault, perpetrated over many years by a male family member in the survivor’s home/abusers home.
  • Children aged 13 onwards are most vulnerable to rape perpetrated by a male non-family member (usually friends/acquaintances/neighbours) over a number of hours in an outdoor locations or other location outside the home.

Key statistics

  • 75% of child survivors, both girls and boys, aged 13-17 were subjected to rape.
  • 60% of female child survivors were subjected to rape compared to 30% of male child survivors.
  • 70% of children under the age of 5 were subjected to sexual assault.
  • 73% of girls aged 13-17 were abused in an outdoor location or location other than their own home or the perpetrators home.
  • 85% of incidents of sexual violence perpetrated against girls aged 13-17 lasted hours.
  • 59% of child survivors disclosed experiencing additional forms of violence along with the sexual violence.

Adult perpetrators of sexual violence against child survivors

  • The average age of perpetrators was 26, 98% were male.
  • 31% of incidents of abuse against child survivors were perpetrated by family members.
  • 39% of incidents of abuse against child survivors were perpetrated by friends/acquaintances/neighbours.

Child perpetrators of sexual violence against child survivors

  • 37% of perpetrators of sexual violence against child survivors were under age 18.
  • 97% of child perpetrators were male.
  • Child perpetrators were most likely to be friends/acquaintances/neighbours of the survivor (56%).
  • Family members accounted for 24% of child perpetrators of sexual violence against children.
  • Child perpetrators abused those of similar age or younger who were usually non-family members.

Disclosure and reporting

  • Child survivors mostly disclosed the sexual violence to their parents first (75%).
  • 82% of sexual incidents disclosed by child survivors were reported to a formal authority by the survivor themselves or their guardian.

Notes:

This specialist report, providing a detailed examination of child sexual abuse, with data that has never been available in Ireland heretofore, is the result of a dynamic collaboration between RCNI, 13 Rape Crisis Centres and Children at Risk Ireland (CARI) using the RCNI national sexual violence frontline data collection system. This collaboration, and the RCNI data collection system, places Ireland at the forefront of combating crimes of sexual violence, as it delivers exceptional analysis of the perpetrators including how and where children of different ages and genders are targeted.

report-thumb-hearing-child-2013Download the report here (PDF 6.6Mb)

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For more information please contact Anne-Marie Flynn on 087 9848459

Following today’s news of a young female student reporting an alleged rape to the Gardai, USI and RCNI want to remind people never to be afraid to report incidents to the Gardai

Following today’s news of a young female student reporting an alleged rape to the Gardai, USI (Union of Students in Ireland) and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) want to remind people never to be afraid to report incidents to the Gardai, no matter what the circumstances.

Denise McCarthy Deputy President/VP Welfare USI said: “Having sex with someone who cannot consent, because they are too drunk or are in fear, is rape. USI’s recent ‘Say Something’ study showed victims do not report incidents of sexual violence because they thought that they would be blamed for what happened (22 per cent). Additionally, in over six in ten cases (64 per cent for Women, 62 per cent for Men) the victim themselves were under the influence of alcohol at the time. This belief is dangerous. It is never the fault of the victim even if they have been drinking or taking drugs. It is important that victims feel that they can report an incident no matter what the context. Making a habit of noting the name or license number of a taxi driver at the start of a journey can be very helpful.  If someone you know has been raped or assaulted support them and make sure they know it is not their fault. You can find helpful information here: www.rapecrisishelp.ie.”

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said: “Taxi drivers are professionals providing a service. The nature of the service means taxi drivers often provide a service to people who are vulnerable. It should be the case that sexual innuendo or conduct of any kind is not tolerated from either driver or passenger. A code of conduct and complaints system for taxi drivers is in place. While all criminal activity and/or threat of criminal activity should be reported to the Gardaí it is important to note that conduct that is inappropriate but not necessarily criminal should also be reported. We would urge anyone who has felt uncomfortable or feel that the taxi driver was inappropriate, particularly sexually, to make a complaint here http://www.transportforireland.ie/taxi/taxi-compliments-complaints/ to the Transport Authority detailing the behaviour.”

For further information call the 24 hour Rape Crisis helpline on 1800 778 888 if you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence. Read the “Say Something” Report conducted by USI and supported by COSC (National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence).

RCNI urge anyone concerned about a neighbour to work with Gardaí

RCNI today, following the incident in Athlone of the abduction and suspected sexual assault of 2 children aged 6 and 9, urges anyone, should they have any concerns about the behaviour or activity of someone living in their neighbourhood, to work with the Gardaí.

Fiona Neary, RCNI director said, ‘child abduction is traumatic both for the victims and their community.  Research and national data tells us that acquaintances, friends and neighbours are the most commonly named perpetrators by child survivors, both boys and girls, attending RCCs in 2012 (noted in 39% of incidents). Strangers accounted for only 7% of all reported incidents.

‘The majority of incidents involving female children only, under the age of 13, coming to the attention of RCCs in 2012, were perpetrated by parents, immediate family members or extended family members. However, the likelihood of incidents being perpetrated by acquaintances, strangers and other non-family members increases with age especially for girls.

‘All communities can act to protect children. RCNI urge anyone who has concerns about the behaviour of someone living in their area to talk to the Gardaí in confidence to alert them and pass on any information that may prove useful.’

For Information please contact:
Clíona Saidléar 087 2196447

This ‘Arthur’s day’ Rape Crisis Network Ireland call on the government to take action to prevent rape by implementing the recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy report

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), has today called for the government to stand up to vested interests in the alcohol industry and  prevent rape crimes by implementing the recommendations on combating alcohol harm in our society.

Since 2009 Ireland has had clear evidence of the levels of alcohol involvement in sexual violence, with over 76 per cent of all rape defendants stating that they had been drinking at the time of the rape, in the seminal Rape & Justice in Ireland report.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said: “the evidence on alcohol and sexual violence is overwhelming. Preventing further rape , and tackling low levels of reporting and prosecution, means this government  must tackle toxic alcohol consumption. Yet to date not one recommendation of the National Substance Misuse Strategy has been implemented by this government. This Government is failing victims of rape and is failing to prevent rape crimes.

“RCNI repeat our call for minimum pricing to be brought in and continue to support the full implementation of the new National Substance Misuse Strategy which has a range of recommendations designed to reduce the harm to Irish society of alcohol consumption”.

For more information on Alcohol and Sexual Violence visit the RCNI blog for detailed fact sheets and briefing documents at www.rcni.ie/media or for help and support for survivors of sexual violence visit www.rapecrisishelp.ie

For information please contact:

Anne Marie Flynn on 091 563676

RCNI ask for a response as delay is signaled in the extension of the DPP’s Reasons Project to rape victims

Rape Crisis Network Ireland call on the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, to reassure rape victims and respond to statements in the Office of the DPP Annual Report 2012, which signals a very lengthy delay to  any expansion of the giving reasons for non-prosecution project, including to victims of rape.

Executive Director Fiona Neary said ‘We know that treating victims with dignity and respect at every stage of the legal system encourages others to come forward, when they see that the trauma and devastation of rape crimes is recognized by the state – even when it cannot deliver a prosecution. We know that giving victims’ information assists in their recovery. Treating victims with dignity throughout is a critical component of a legal system, which recognizes that terrible crimes have been committed, and a person violated, when sometimes these crimes cannot be prosecuted. It enables victims to move on with their lives, knowing that they stood up to their attacker and did everything they could to prevent further rape crimes.

‘Rape victims have told us how they feel when they are not given information by the legal system: “I feel my case isn’t important to them. I was forgotten about” (Rape and Justice Ireland, 2009).

‘RCNI call on the Government to reassure victims of sexual violence crimes and demonstrate commitment to them by committing to resourcing the OPPD to provide reasons to victims of sexual crimes. RCNI ask “what are the priorities of this country if is not committing resources to those who have been violated?”

‘Under the EU Directive on the Support of Crime Victims, the State will be obliged to give reasons to victims of sexual crime for not bringing a prosecution in their case. The Government should take steps now therefore to ensure that the DPP is given the resources to put in place an efficient, compassionate and fair system to provide reasons to victims for her decisions.’

For information please contact

Cliona Saidlear
0872196447

Rape Crisis Network Ireland today released new data on Under 18’s and pregnancy following rape

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has today released data on Under 18’s and pregnancy following rape, compiled using information collected by 15 Rape Crisis Centres on the RCNI database in 2011.

Executive Director Fiona Neary stated: ‘Examination of our national data shows that in 2011 40 females who attended a rape crisis centre reported that they were subjected to rape solely in their childhood and became pregnant as a result of the rape’.

Of the 40 females who attended:

  • Nineteen survivors of rape while under age 18 went on to give birth and parent their children
  • Nine survivors of rape while under age 18 had their pregnancy terminated
  • Seven survivors of rape while under age 18 miscarried or had stillbirths
  • Five survivors of rape while under age 18 who became pregnant had their child placed for adoption or fostering.
  • Data recorded on all women and girls attending rape crisis centres in 2011 shows that of the 2,036 female survivors of sexual violence who attended a Rape Crisis Centre (RCC):
  • 90 girls and women became pregnant as a result of rape
  • 17 survivors, pregnant as a result of rape, terminated the pregnancy.
  • Two survivors became pregnant more than once as a result of rape and had different outcomes in each pregnancy.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘in the abortion debate there has been some talk about the case of women who have been raped and are pregnant as a result. It is important this discussion is informed by the best available facts and a compassionate understanding of the realities facing these girls and women in Ireland. Ninety girls and women, who were pregnant after rape, were supported in Rape Crisis Centres (RCC) across Ireland in 2011. 40 of these reported that they were under the age of 18 at the time of the rape and pregnancy. These numbers represent one part of the picture as not all rape survivors seek or can access RCC support.

In 2011 105 children attended 15 RCCs throughout Ireland.

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Notes:

  • RCNI is the national representative body for the Rape Crisis Sector in Ireland
  • All statistics are from the RCNI Database©
  • Note that these figures relate to 2011 clients, including those reporting historic abuse, therefore we cannot assume these pregnancies happened in 2011 itself. It is in fact more likely that the rapes occurred sometime prior to 2011.
  • Additional figures of the 90 girls and women who were pregnant after rape in 2011, 60 survivors went to term, of whom 12 had their child adopted or fostered. A further 11 miscarried or had stillbirths.

Please go to our publications section for full fact sheet with graph.

For further information contact Eileen Keleghan, 086 0603646