Charity says survivors of sexual violence now finding it easier to speak out

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says people who have abused their power are being held to account

Charity says survivors of sexual violence now finding it easier to speak out

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell speaking at the Citizens Assembly, 04-02-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Survivors of sexual violence are starting to feel more confident about coming forward, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

It comes amid the high profile allegations against high-level Hollywood figures including Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein.

Allegations of sexual misconduct have also shaken the British Parliament – with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon leaving his position hours after Downing Street was informed of a claim he had lunged at a junior reporter and attempted to kiss her.

Meanwhile, a former Government minister has revealed she was physically bullied in the halls of Leinster House by two male TDs.

The former Education Minister Niamh Bhreathnach warned that we are still living in a “patriarchal society” - with Irish politics no different than any other community.

The chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) Noeline Blackwell said the survivors are now finding it easier to speak openly about their experiences – and challenging those who have abused their power:

“What is happening now is that those who have abused their powers are being held to account,” she said. “That there are consequences for sexual harassment.”

“For the most part it happens in a hidden way, it is secret and people don’t report it.

“There should be consequences for that kind of behaviour and if that is starting to happen now, well then we are becoming a more civilized society.”

The DRCC has called for updated research to be carried out into sexual abuse in Ireland – warning that the last in-depth study was completed fifteen years ago.

Ms Blackwell said it is essential that we have a clear picture of regarding the level of sexual misconduct in Irish society – adding that we need to continue to foster an atmosphere that encourages survivors to come forward:  

“It is one of the key things for our society that people are able to openly talk about sexual harassment,” she said.

“That people are able to call it what it is when it happens.

“If it continues we will have a significant change in our culture.”

The proposed in-depth study would cost around €1m to carry out – with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and the Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald already indicating that they would support it.