OPINION: We Have to Make It as Easy as Possible for Rape Victims to Speak about Their Ordeal; by MARY WALLACE TD Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Chairperson of the National Steering Committe on Violence against Women
Byline: MARY WALLACE TD
ALMOST all rape and sexual assault victims share one terrible common factor. New research shows that almost eight out of ten of all rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker.
By any measure this is a terrible feat-ure of these attacks - because this fact makes it even more difficult to encourage the victims to come forward to seek help to overcome their trauma.
It can take years for a victim to find the strength they desperately need to seek help. Many of the clients of the marvellous network of rape crisis centres have only found the ability within themselves to come forward in later years to seek the counselling they need and deserve.
The heinous crime of rape is a tragedy visited on the victims. To compound the crime, imagine how much more difficult and tortuous it is to struggle to seek help when the victim knows the perpetrator of the crime?
Think then of their fear - fear of the perpetrator and fear that they may not be believed.
We need to encourage victims to come forward to seek help to overcome the trauma.
DEALING with the issue of rape and sexual assault is by no means an easy task. No one agency has the answers or all the expertise when it comes to ending sexual violence.
As Chairperson of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, I recognise the need for a cohesive response to victims of these crimes - indeed that is one of the tasks set for the National Steering Committee.
Through our public awareness campaigns we try to encourage victims to access services, to give a clear message to perpetrators that violence is a crime and must stop and to educate the general public that they should not condone violence and further marginalise the victim.
It is very important that we do not say or do anything that may inhibit a person from coming forward to seek help.
The National Steering Committee has looked at research in the area of sexual violence. This research contains a number of reasons why there so many victims fail to come forward and makes recommend-ations on how this might be combated.
It points out that victims:
fear they may not be believed
say the fact that they knew the assailant may lead people to assume they had a relationship with the perpetrator
fear the judicial process and cross-examination in court
fear the sort of response that they received from the person to whom they first reported the assault. …