By Aislinn O Connor
According to the Central Statistics Office, sexual crimes reported to the Gardaí have significantly risen in the past year. Most recent reports state that there has been a nine per cent increase from last year.
Usually, sexual crimes are severely under-reported, so why is there such a rise in these figures now? While it is good that people are reporting these types of crimes to the Gardaí, does it mean that there is in fact an increase in sexual assaults? Or is it that there is just more people reporting crimes?
Over the past few years we have seen a rise in people reporting crimes, specifically sexual assaults. This includes a lot of high–profile sexual assault cases, which led to things like the #IBelieveHer phenomenon.
The #IBelieveHer movement all started when a Belfast rape trial began against high–profile rugby players. While the verdict found the men not guilty, society rallied behind the woman. Marches and protests were organised, with people screaming, “I believe her!” at the top of their lungs. It was a defining moment for victims of sexual assault, they knew that society was behind them, even if the courts were not.
Could this be the reason for the increase of sexual crimes being reported? Are people sick of hiding behind themselves? Is it all because victims now know that society is sick and tired of this too?
Even if you agreed with the courts that day and believed the men to be not guilty, the ‘I believe her’ march is still a pinnacle moment in Irish history, as it showed exactly what people were thinking – ‘enough is enough’.
It is clear that the reason for this increase in sexual crimes reporting is down to society. Society has begun teaching people that victims of sexual assaults are not to blame or to be embarrassed by anything.
Before the ‘I Believe Her’ case, society was a place that always gave the benefit of the doubt to the man or the accused, commonly citing that “men’s lives could be ruined”, but ‘#IBelieveHer’ turned that narrative upside down.
Before ‘#IBelieveHer’, there was the #MeToo movement, a movement that started in the USA, but spread across the entire world. It inspired people from all social classes to come forward and share their story of sexual assualt. The #Metoo movement was a movement against sexual assault and harassment. The movement was made famous during the Harvey Weinstein controversy, when key Hollywood actresses came forward to accuse the director of sexual assault.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s executive director Cliodhna Sadlier said to The Irish Times that the scale of the increase in reported sex crimes suggests that cultural and societal changes are encouraging more victims to come forward.
However, there is still one big problem. There is still the presumption that only 10 per cent of sexual offending is ever reported. That is an alarmingly low figure still. But at the end of the day, the main thing is that victims of sexual assault are reporting more and more and, hopefully, one day, that will be enough for it to stop.
Galway Rape crisis helpline: 1800 355 355
National rape crisis helpline : 1800 778 888