Mary Crilly, a spokesperson for the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, has said that three female students from UCC and CIT have been in touch with the centre over the past few weeks to say that they'd been raped.
Ms. Crilly was discussing the terrible trauma suffered by these students in a bid to highlight the need for greater funding and resources to be made available to the new Garda Protective Services Unit opened in Cork - the remit of which is specifically to investigate sexual assault, sex trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence.
The new unit, which had been established on a pilot basis in Cork city in September 2016 - being made permanent in May 2017 - is still recruiting, but is hoping to employ two sergeants and ten detectives presently. However Ms. Crilly, while speaking with The Irish Times, said that a city the size of Cork ought to have approximately 20 Gardaí in such a unit.
Of the cases she mentioned, she stated that two of the three students who had come forward had been forced to drop out of their courses and move back with their families as a direct result of what had happened.
Ms. Crilly cited an American study which found that more freshers were the victims of sexual assault in the first months of their first term, when many were attending parties, going out and drinking heavily for the first time and thus are unfortunately more likely to be taken advantage of. She said that a similar trend had been observed by the Cork Sexual Violence Centre in relation to local students. Though the circumstances around the three cases she referred to were different to those put forward in the study and did not involve drink.
She said that often, many young women will not report the crime if they have been drinking and as such can be liable to start to blame themselves for the incident - which is both incredibly injurious to their mental health and grossly unjust. Indeed, while it is undeniable that a lot of sexual assaults happen in situations involving alcohol, it is a gross perversion of justice for the consumption of alcohol on the part of the victim to be seen as bearing any relevance to the crime. Indeed it is this, unfortunately still permissible, narrative of alcohol somehow impugning the victim's 'character' that prevents so many cases being reported; a trend that will presumably remain until a paradigm shift in how these crimes are viewed occurs, both socially and legally.
While no details about the particular cases cited were referenced - with it being unclear whether those responsible for the three crimes were also students - there have been calls within the last year for consent classes to be made mandatory for all incoming first-years. Given the incredibly varying quality of the sexual health and sexual awareness classes taught in Irish secondary schools - a situation which the government are seeking to redress - it seems vital for such classes to be made mandatory in all third level institutions.
The Cork Sexual Violence Centre number is 1800 496 496
The national 24-hour helpline is 1800 778 888
H/T: The Irish Times