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 after 10am on the 28th January 2014


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.