Athena Talks
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Athena Talks

Rapists Walk Among Us

There has been outage at the news that the man accused of raping a Spanish student in Dublin on the weekend was released without charge. According to the young woman the man held her against her will and repeatedly raped her. She managed to get away and reported her false imprisonment and rape to the Gardai who then bought the man in for questioning. The accused is also currently out on bail for other more minor offences. Social media is abuzz with disgust and outrage that the offender is not in police custody. And yet women are raped every day in Ireland and their rapists walk among us.

Charity One in Four claim that one in four children in Ireland are or have been sexually assaulted. If this is true we have a serious sexual abuse problem in this country.

How is everyone not talking about this? how is sexual abuse prevention and support not one of the biggest spends in the health budget? Why did a charity need to be set up to support these children?

The Rape Crisis Network’s report from 2015 states that 13, 208 people contacted their helpline that year. Of those 66% were calls to request support, advocacy or counselling. That is 23 sexual assault victims a DAY calling the Rape Crisis Centre. Presumably the same 23 offenders aren’t responsible for raping a new lot of 23 people every day — so how many people are rapists? And why do we never talk about how many people rape?

Of the people accessing the Rape Crisis Centre 17% of them had experienced MULTIPLE assaults by different perpetrators. This is also only the people we know about. I did not report either of the times I was raped to the Rape Crisis centre so they are not included in the statistics. Anecdotally I can report that the vast majority of survivors of rape I know have never sought help from the Rape Crisis Centre or reported to the Gardai. Only 35% of the people accessing the Rape Crisis Centre reported to the Gardai.

Women’s Aid report that 1 in 5 women have been or are in an abusive relationship in Ireland. 20% of the women in Ireland — so what percentage of men have been abusive? Why when you think of “domestic abuse” do you immediately think of the victim (probably — Sigh! — a “battered” woman cowering)? Why do the words not conjure up the image of an abusive man? How have perpetrators slipped through the net so much that we associate the victim with the crime more than the perpetrator? How much does this association affect the way we view crimes against women and girls? Does it play a part in why sexual and domestic crimes are the only ones in which the victim’s behaviour is dissected and examined? We don’t ask a victim of a burglary what they were wearing or how much they had to drink, yet women who are victims of male violence have every area of their lives scrutinised — sometimes even their pasts.

Sexual coercion and rape is a tactic domestic abusers use on their partners. In Ireland last year 695 women disclosed to Women’s Aid that they had been sexually assaulted by their partner. As most abuse victims do not even contact Women’s Aid we do not know the real numbers of how many women are experiencing sexual abuse and rape from their partners.

Of the people who disclosed their assaults to the Rape Crisis Centre 85% of the perpetrators were known to the victim. The rapists and abusers were mostly people they knew. The rapists and abusers are mostly people YOU know. Statistically speaking there is so much rape and sexual abuse happening in Ireland that it is almost impossible to conceive of any person who lives here not knowing a rapist. There isn’t a small cohort of evil men (96% of perpetrators are men) going around raping and abusing all these children and women, there are just too many victims for it to be confined to a small number of offenders.

The awful, vile attack on the Spanish student on the weekend has caught the public’s attention. I wish they would be as outraged by the other rapes happening to women and girls in Ireland as well. I hope these people help us fight the 70% cuts to the Rape Crisis Centre’s funding. I hope they will help us make sure the Gardai are trained in how to deal with victims of intimate partner and sexual violence. I hope they will they call out the sexism and gender stereotyping that leads to men’s entitlement. That leads to men thinking they can rape and abuse children, girls and women (and sometimes other men).

We cannot ignore the figures, it is statistically very likely that everyone knows someone who has been raped, assaulted or abused. It also seems probable that everyone knows a rapist or abuser. So why are people not talking about that? Why is there not outrage that rapists walk among us?

I’m not paid for this piece, if you want you can support my work by shouting me the price of a coffee :)

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