RCNI urges government to make Sexual Consent Education a priority within our Secondary Schools

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release 10th March 2015

RCNI urges government to make Sexual Consent Education a priority within our Secondary Schools

RCNI today, following announcements in the UK, urge Minister for Education, and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan to act now to ensure our children are protected from sexual violence through teaching the knowledge, skills and abilities to understand sexual consent and negotiate their potential relationships safely.

Cliona Saidlear, RCNI Director said, ‘this time last year RCNI revealed new research findings in Young people, Alcohol and Sex: What’s Consent got to do with it?, in which our brightest young people, our college students, said they lacked preparedness to negotiate consent safely leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence.  They cited having had no exposure to consent education in their school experience.

‘Our school curriculum and national policy within the education system has as yet not responded to that evidence of failure to prevent sexual violence and protect children. In addition we continue to await the National Sexual Health Strategy. Today the UK government took the initiative and announced plans to teach children from the age of 11 about sexual consent. This approach to sexual violence prevention would advance us towards the WHO  Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe (2010) which outlines the various levels of sexuality education recommended from 0-4, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15 and 15 plus.

‘Our young people need government to act to prevent sexual violence. In RCNI’s report in 2013 on Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence it was revealed that 37% of the perpetrators of sexual violence against children were themselves children. This figure could be reduced if greater emphasis was placed on prevention through sexual consent training.

‘We cannot continue to be outraged at the level of incidence of sexual violence and particularly alcohol implicated sexual violence amongst young people, when opportunities for preventing sexual violence are not prioritised.

RCNI call on the Minister to look to the WHO evidence and our neighbour’s example and make sexual consent education a priority.



RCNI welcomes appointment of new Ombudsman for Children

4 February 2015


RCNI welcomes appointment of new Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon


Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has welcomed the appointment of Dr Niall Muldoon as the new Ombudsman for Children, as announced yesterday by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly


Dr Cliona Saidlear, RCNI Acting Director said, ‘RCNI have had the privilege of working with Niall Muldoon over a number of years, both in his role in CARI and later within the Ombudsman’s office. Niall has great insight into the vulnerabilities of the child and in particular brought a focus to the complex world that the older child both thrives within and navigates.’


According to the most recent RCNI National Rape Crisis Statistics Report 2013 7% of survivors attending Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs) were under the age of 18. 14% of perpetrators of sexual violence against survivors coming to RCCs were under the age of 18. 23% of survivors who were abused when under the age of 13 were abused by other children.


Ms Saidlear went on to say, ‘a focus on the older child and an understanding of their vulnerability to both aggression and victimisation remains a critical and under-resourced area of child protection and sexual violence prevention. We wish Dr Muldoon well in his new role.’


Also please see www.rcni.ie under research and reports for further information on children using RCC services in 2013

RCNI strongly welcome the release of the General Scheme of the forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offices) Bill

27 November 2014

RCNI strongly welcome the release of the General Scheme of the forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offices) Bill and commend Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald for bringing this substantial and significant piece of legislation before us.

Cliona Saidlear, RCNI Acting Director said, ‘This long awaited legislation is one of the most important advances in the legal framework around sexual violence crimes in recent years. RCNI would also like to recognise the work of previous Ministers for Justice, the significant effort by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence over several years, and the work of members of Oireachtas Committees who have contributed to the legislation’s development over recent years. This legislation truly is a product of the Oireachtas as a whole and we look forward to contributing our perspectives on it, as members of the Oireachtas give this legislation their consideration on its progression into law.

Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘we are constantly reminded through our clinical work of the devastation caused to children by sexual violence. A large part of this violence begins with “grooming” behaviours, which do not always fit in to the existing categories of offences. Therefore, we have been advocating for years for laws that fit the realities of today’s childhood. The introduction of a new offence of grooming of children including grooming via social media and otherwise through the use of information technology is very welcome.

‘In addition, RCNI is very glad to see the new provisions tightening the law in relation to the monitoring and supervision of sex offenders on release from prison and placing the risk assessment of these offenders on a statutory footing. Our hope is that these measures taken together will do much to help reduce the impacts of release not only on these offenders’ victims but also on the wider community.

‘Finally, RCNI welcomes the introduction of a statutory regime to regulate disclosure of counselling records relating to victims, in criminal proceedings, for which we and our partners have also advocated for years. This means that a judge will decide whether and/or to what extent, any disclosure of such documents will be allowed, and in doing so, s/he will take into account the right of the victim to protection from further harm and the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of such intimate and personal records, as well as the right of the accused to a fair trial.

RCNI looks forward to examining this complex General Scheme in more detail and to producing a full measured response to it in the near future’


Also please see www.rcni.ie under publications and submission for a range of RCNI documentation which contributed to the contents of this Bill

RCNI release National Rape Crisis Statistics 2013 report; call for renewed whole of government attention to the issue of sexual violence

RCNI Press Release – Wednesday 12th November 2014

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) release their National Rape Crisis Statistics 2013 report and call for renewed whole of government attention at this time to the issue of sexual violence

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald officially launched the report today at the Royal Irish Academy. Other speakers included Anne Scully (RCNI Chair), Dr Clíona Saidléar (RCNI Acting Director), and Elaine Mears (RCNI Data and Services Information Manager).

This comprehensive report pulls together information gathered using RCNI’s unique, best in class Data and Knowledge Collection System from 2,203 survivors of sexual violence who presented to 15 Rape Crisis Centres across Ireland in 2013, and the findings have policy implications for the whole of government in terms of delivering an urgent, satisfactory response to address the needs of survivors of sexual violence.

Elaine Mears, RCNI Data and Services Information Manager said: “Teenagers who experience sexual violence may not be receiving the best response, because these findings once again emphasise that these children more commonly disclose patterns of abuse experienced by adults. Survivors also reveal that 14% of perpetrators of the sexual violence against them were themselves children. Through this report RCNI brings greater understanding to how factors such as age, gender and legal status strongly influence patterns of abuse and therefore inform how we can respond appropriately to the needs of all survivors.”

Ms. Mears continued: “For the first time, we release RCNI findings on the contact and experience of survivors reporting to An Garda Síochána. 57% of survivors who reported to the Gardaí felt they were treated in a sensitive manner, and 59% received ongoing contact from the Gardaí on their case. RCNI are engaging with An Garda Síochána to further understand the information coming through the RCNI data and knowledge information system to determine which possible responses are appropriate.”

Dr. Clíona Saidléar, Acting Director, RCNI said: “Responding appropriately to survivors must be a priority for the whole of government. To do this, we must have the best possible understanding of patterns and nature of sexual violence, in order to inform the approach to service provision for survivors, as well as in challenging the stereotypes and inaccurate, damaging societal attitudes that exist regarding all aspects of rape and sexual abuse.

This report, along with others generated using the RCNI Data and Knowledge Collection System is a continuation of the critically important work being done in the Rape Crisis Sector by a combination of cooperating stakeholders to generate that understanding.  The findings are a vital tool in generating knowledge and awareness, identifying continuing or new patterns of sexual violence and tracking changes in the key characteristics of perpetrators and survivors as well as the details of the occurrence, nature and extent of the abuse itself.”

Dr Saidléar continued: “The findings contained within this report highlight the crucial role this data plays in providing relevant, cost-effective answers to vital practice questions, including all aspects of uptake and usage of Rape Crisis Centre awareness, support and prevention services.  The report should not simply be regarded as a record of what happened in 2013, but rather, used as a valuable resource to plan for the future and inform the necessary responses from government to address the problem of sexual violence, as well as implementing a decisive prevention strategy.

The findings of this report represent a continuation of over 12 years of vital data collection, used by researchers, practitioners and policymakers in our collective efforts to end sexual violence towards women, men and children. This valuable resource is now under serious threat due to a lack of funding. We call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to ensure the preservation of this resource in order to maintain continuity of data so RCNI can continue to inform policy formation in this area.”

Interim Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said: “The figures released today are an invaluable aid in our ongoing fight against sexual crime. We want to ensure that victims of sexual crime are treated with compassion and empathy, and can have the confidence that they will be taken seriously, supported, and a thorough investigation is undertaken. We will continue to work with bodies such as the RCNI to ensure that victims of sexual crime receive the best possible support.”

Key Findings of the Report

Some the key findings of the report are presented below. This information refers to the 15 Rape Crisis Centres in Ireland who entered information into the Data and Knowledge Collection System.

Counselling and Support

  • In 2013, 32,026 contacts were made to Rape Crisis Centre helplines in Ireland, representing 3,195 hours of calls.
  • 2,467 people took up counselling and support services in RCCs in 2013, resulting in 22,460 appointments.
  • 56% more counselling and support was given to survivors of multiple incidents of sexual violence than other survivors.
  • 7% of survivors attending RCCs were children
  • Rape Crisis Centres accompanied 603 people to a range of different services including Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs), the Gardaí and PSNI.
  • 18% of those accompanied by RCCs were children (Page 12)
  • 23% of RCC work was carried out by volunteers (Page 9)


  • 48% of survivors of adult sexual violence reported to a formal authority.
  • 57% of survivors who reported the abuse felt that the Gardaí treated them in a sensitive manner.
  • 63% of child survivors attending RCCs first disclosed the abuse to parents

Perpetrator Information

  • 91% of perpetrators of sexual violence were known to the survivor.
  • 14% of perpetrators were children (aged under 18)
  • 23% of survivors who were abused when under the age of 13 were abused by other children
  • 61% of survivors aged 13 to 17 were subjected to rape

This research also reinforces the findings of RCNI research published earlier this year focusing on the severe trauma experienced by refugees and asylum seekers attending Rape Crisis Centres, and highlights the unique vulnerabilities and difficulties that they face.

The RCNI National Rape Crisis Statistics 2013 report can be downloaded in its entirety on www.rcni.ie from 10am on Wednesday 12th November 2014.



RCNI release new report: Asylum seekers & refugees surviving on hold

October 28th 2014

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) release new report:
“Asylum seekers and refugees surviving on hold, sexual violence disclosed to Rape Crisis Centres in 2012.”

• “significant reforms urgently necessary in Direct Provision system”
• “many survivors of sexual violence seeking asylum in Ireland…… have not found a haven”

Judge Catherine McGuinness officially launched the report today at the Royal Irish Academy. Other speakers included Anne Scully (RCNI Chair) and Dr Clíona Saidléar (RCNI Acting Director), a number of representatives from the asylum seeker and refugee community were also present.
The report presents findings on asylum seeker and refugee survivors of sexual violence who were using Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) services in 2012. Amongst the findings were:
• The population experienced high incidents with multiple abusers, 52% as opposed to 11% for the general population,
• Security forces represented 46% of perpetrators of sexual violence against this population,
• For 40% of this population the sexual violence lasted for years,
• And for 5% the sexual violence was perpetrated within rebel/government camps,
• For female survivors, 14% became pregnant as a result of rape and 67% of these girls and women are now parenting the children.
Of urgent concern this report identifies the Direct Provision system and living conditions as both exacerbating these survivors’ trauma and creating vulnerability to additional sexual violence.
The report also takes a closer look at barriers this population faces in accessing support to address often high levels of need:
• For 32% of Rape Crisis clients from this group the counselling ended because the survivor was moved and could no longer access the centre,
• Rape Crisis Centres noticed referral dropping off as community and professional supports to this population, particularly those living in Direct Provision, was curtailed,
• Reluctance to disclose to a Community Welfare Officer in order to secure the resources to attend an RCC eg to fund transportation, child minding, missed meals.
Anne Scully, RCNI Chair said, ‘Unfortunately, for many survivors of sexual violence seeking asylum in Ireland, many of whom have experienced multiple and prolonged violence, they have not found a haven. Instead, many of the provisions we have in place and the terms under which this population lives can increase distress and vulnerability for these survivors and their families. We need to ensure our asylum process delivers safety and supports survivors to begin their journey of healing.’
Clíona Saidléar, RCNI acting Director said, ‘This report provides clear evidence that significant reforms are urgently necessary in the Direct Provision system to halt the risk of sexual violence to vulnerable residents and minimise the psychological harm to survivors.’
‘The Irish State has an obligation under international human rights instruments to insure that refugee and asylum seeker survivors of sexual violence are protected from discrimination and have access to care. However, we have found that these survivors’ access to rape crisis supports through outreach, innovation and community partnerships, have been eroded by continual cuts since 2008.’
Key Recommendations:
• Reduce time within which people live in Direct Provision;
• Reform Direct Provision to make it safe and secure, for survivors of sexual violence, and from sexual violence:
• training for staff;
• independent complaints system;
• women-only accommodation;
• decreased use of shared facilitates.
• Psycho social support for survivors;
• Psycho-social support for families;
• Resources to facilitate access to supports;
• Asylum seeker and refugee engagement in building responses.

The full report can be downloaded at www.rcni.ie/

• All statistics are from the RCNI Database©

28th October 2014


RCNI welcome Oireachtas Committee report on Domestic and sexual violence

Rape Crisis Network Ireland today welcome the launch of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality Report on its hearings into Sexual and Domestic Violence which makes a number of important recommendations.

Clíona Saidléar, RCNI acting Director said, ‘the committee’s recommendation that the justice and support response to sexual violence should be specialised is very welcome. Giving survivors of sexual violence a just and appropriate response requires specialists at every point, from the Gardaí, to the support worker, to the medical response, and the courts. We urge both those in leadership and stakeholders to commit to this goal to preserve the specialisation that currently exists and is often under threat and to build it where it does not.’

Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘RCNI are particularly pleased to see the committee recommend that the right of the accused to cross examine the victim personally in court should be qualified in sexual violence cases. We have seen the absence of this qualification impact on some of the most vulnerable victims of sexual crimes and unacceptably permit the traumatising of victims by their alleged perpetrators within our justice system.

Clíona Saidléar went on to say, ‘RCNI also strongly welcome the committees assertion that the age of consent to sex should remain at 17. This question has been considered numerous times over the past decade, despite the fact that at no point has there been a consensus or willingness to lower the age of consent. The position taken by this committee has been arrived at upon examination of the evidence, and the purpose and function of this legal instrument in light of the reality of the teenage child’s vulnerability in today’s society.

RCNI release latest Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) accompaniment figures

In 2013 494 people were accompanied to SATUs by Rape Crisis Centre Psychological Support Workers, according to new Rape Crisis Network Ireland National statistics. 95% of the victims were female and the age range was from teenagers to 65. This unique Rape Crisis support to victims attending a sexual assault treatment unit is provided 24 hours a day in each of the SATU locations nationwide.

RCNI’s Susan Miner said, ‘for survivors the fact that we are there at the SATU, working as part of the team with An Garda Síochána, the SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination) Nurses, Medical Doctors and Clinical Nurse Managers is incredibly important.’

Rape Crisis Network Ireland, An Garda Síochána, Office of the DPP, Forensic Science Laboratory, HSE nursing and medical personnel and GPs have devised and updated the national guidelines by which these vital services are offered. The updated third edition of Recent Rape/Sexual Assault: National Guidelines on Referral and Forensic Clinical Examination in Ireland is being launched tomorrow morning (17th October) in Mullingar. These guidelines include sections covering An Garda Síochána, clinical forensic examinations, health checks, STI checks and treatment, psychological support, General Practitioners and legal issues.

An electronic copy of the Guidelines will be available on the RCNI website – www.rcni.ie from Friday lunchtime.

Innovative new sex education programme -REAL U- fills education gaps, new study shows

* Innovative new sex education programme fills education gap, new study shows

* REAL U Programme developed by Foróige, Ireland’s leading youth organisation, delivered to more than 10,500 teenagers nationwide

* HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme funds national roll out

* Launch of REAL U research findings alongside HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme’s re-developed B4uDecide.ie website


An innovative new sex education programme delivered to more than 10,500 teenagers nationwide is ‘filling a gap’ in relationship and sexuality education for young people in Ireland, a new study has shown.

The 12-month research into youth organisation Foróige’s Relationships Explored and Life Uncovered (REAL U) programme also found that young people’s attitudes to LGBT issues and knowledge about the facts of sex improved significantly as a result of taking part in the 12-week programme.

REAL U is a comprehensive relationships and sexual health programme designed to delay the onset of early sexual activity and reduce teen pregnancy. Funding for the roll out of the programme nationally came from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

Foróige’s Dr. Susan Redmond welcomed the study findings:

“Young people are living in an increasingly sexualised world and teenagers need the tools to navigate through this world effectively.

“What this programme does is equip teenagers with the confidence and knowledge to cultivate healthy relationships, develop their confidence around expressing their thoughts and feelings, while also being aware of the risks that early sexual behaviour can have.

“It also allows for the subject of sex to be discussed in a frank and honest way which enables them to develop behaviours that nurture positive relationships in all aspects of their lives.”

Body image, emotional well-being, healthy relationships, gender and sexuality, media messaging, pornography, contraception, unplanned pregnancy and STIs are just some of the topics addressed in the innovative programme.

The ‘RealCare’ Baby infant simulator, which makes it possible for teenagers to practise caring for an infant for 24 hours, seven days a week, is also offered as an additional element to the programme in Foróige’s Centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

The study into the REAL U programme, which was undertaken by the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre, NUI Galway over a 12 month period, was launched this morning at Pearse St Library in Dublin.

Teenagers who took part in the programme said they were better informed and more aware of the consequences of their actions, with 98% of those evaluated rating the programme highly.

Almost all of the teenagers evaluated said the programme should be widely available to young people to ensure they are informed and empowered to make the right decision for them.

To date, 440 facilitators have been trained in the programme, with more than 10,500 young people completing the programme nationwide.

Foróige also offers training on the programme to external agencies for free through funding from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme. To date, training has been provided to 43 different agencies including the Child and Family Agency Túlsa, Focus Ireland and Barnardos.

Wayne Deegan, a 16 year old from Blanchardstown in Dublin who is taking part in the programme, said: “Talking about relationships and sex isn’t easy. I really like this programme though because you can speak up and ask questions you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking your parents or teachers without getting embarrassed. It’s good to talk about it out in the open.”

Dr Bernadine Brady of the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre at NUI, Galway, who conducted the study, said: “The findings show that young people and youth workers really value having a comprehensive, youth friendly programme of this nature. There is clear evidence that the REAL U programme can improve young people’s knowledge and awareness of sexual health and relationship matters.”

The event also saw the launch of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme’s re-developed B4uDecide.ie website. The website aims to delay early sex among adolescents 14-16 years old by providing them with all the information they might need before making any big decisions about relationships and sex.

The website features new quizzes and polls, video interviews with young people talking about their experiences, real life stories from teenage parents, a ‘Relationships’ section that provides information on building healthy friendships and relationships and a section called ‘The Facts’ that deals with the age of consent, contraception, STIs and crisis pregnancy.

Dr. Cate Hartigan, Assistant National Director, HSE Health Promotion & Improvement said: “The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme’s Strategy 2012–2016 recognises the vital work that youth organisations play in ensuring that young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills to develop positive and supportive relationships.

“The B4uDecide.ie website delivers ‘The Facts without the Lecture’ to young people and assists youth workers in the provision of relationships and sex education (RSE) in youth work settings. These important initiatives that aim to improve the provision of RSE to young people fit within strong Government commitments to improve health and wellbeing of the population and improve outcomes for children and young people.”REAL U

Senator Mullen Must Clarify Recent Comments

RCNI calls on Senator Mullen for clarification of his recent comments on charitable donations and pro-choice support.
Senator Ronan Mullen is cited in the Galway Independent 10/9/2014 as stating that the recent St Vincent De Paul allocation of funding to an LGBT group is ‘unwise’. Mr Mullen stated that ‘times were hard for a great number of people’ and the LGBT group AMACH! ‘had supported a pro-abortion march last year’ as some of the reasons for his opposition to the funding allocation.
Fiona Neary, RCNI director said, ‘by this logic, is Mr Mullen advocating that all recipients of funds from the Vincent De Paul charity are first vetted for any support of termination of pregnancy in any circumstance?
‘Data from Rape Crisis Network Ireland tells us that in 2011 alone 90 women and girls who had become pregnant as a result of a rape at some time in their life, were attending a rape crisis centre. These women came from all socio-economic backgrounds. Seventeen of these victims, including those pregnant as a result of incest, chose to terminate their pregnancy. According to the IFPA an estimated 147,912 women resident in Ireland have had a termination.
‘Is Mr Mullen advocating that all women and children recipients of charitable funds from the Vincent De Paul are first asked whether or not they were ever a victim of rape and chose a termination, or if they ever supported a victim of rape who chose a termination?’


Rape Victim Denied Termination

Rape Crisis Network Ireland today expressed deep concern at the trauma inflicted on the rape victim, who was pregnant after rape and sought a termination at eight weeks – and after delay upon delay resorted to hunger strike. RCNI are concerned that her human rights were effectively denied and call for immediate government action.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said, ‘we are appalled at the treatment of this rape victim. While not all the details are known we are clear that this rape victim was utterly failed in her decision to terminate her pregnancy at a very early stage. It is unclear what happened over the next three months that culminated in the force feeding of the young woman and the birth by caesarean section of her just viable child. What is clear is that this rape victim was not taken care of, her human rights and her choices were denied. How many more rape victims have and will be failed in this way?’

RCNI call on the government to clarify immediately
* who is responsible for finding out exactly what happened in this case,
* who were the authorities from whom the young woman sought to access a termination and
* what responses was she given?
Further, how does the government intend to take appropriate action to ensure this never happens again and when and how will the public will be informed of what gave rise to months of delays while this young woman was in contact with ‘authorities’ and requesting a termination.

Ms Neary continued, ‘statements such that ‘the new legislation will be monitored’ are wholly insufficient – this legislation fails victims of rape, including incest, who cannot access a termination in a timely and supportive manner in Ireland.’
For a link to RCNI briefing on pregnancy after rape for RCC service users https://www.rcni.ie/wp-content/uploads/RangeOfOutcomesOfSurvivorsOfRapeWhoArePregnantAsAResultOfRape2011.pdf