Wednesday 28th February 2018: Today, Women’s Aid, the national organisation supporting women affected by domestic violence in Ireland, raises its concern at the decision this week to reduce the sentence given to a man convicted of marital rape. The organisation, which runs the 24hr National Freephone Helpline and other frontline domestic violence services, says that there is a lack of understanding that rape and sexual abuse is very much a part of women’s experiences of domestic violence and believes that an intimate relationship between the victim and perpetrator should be seen as an aggravating factor. Women’s Aid also calls for sentencing guidelines for domestic violence and rape cases and for a programme of specialised training for the judiciary and other legal professionals to help bring about better outcomes for women.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, reveals:
“There were 607 disclosures of sexual abuse made to Women's Aid in 2017. This figure includes 323 reports of rape by a current or ex intimate partner. Women disclosed that they were raped, beaten during sex, coerced into sex, were denied access to family planning, had sexually explicit images and videos made without their consent, sometimes being shared online. Many women find it difficult to talk about sexual abuse by their intimate partners. Some find it difficult to identify coercion and forced sexual activity as the crime of sexual violence and rape. But sexual violence, even in an intimate relationship or by an ex-partner, is a crime.”
Ms Martin continues:
“Women who call us for support often find talking about sexual abuse by a partner the most difficult aspect of abuse to talk about. Under-reporting and the difficulty in speaking about sexual abuse mean that it is almost an invisible part of the horror of domestic violence. While rape in marriage has been a crime since 1990 there has only ever been four hard won convictions. This is a damning indictment of Irish society and highlights just how difficult it can be for women to report rape by their husbands and go through the additional trauma of a very long and difficult criminal justice process with no certainty of conviction nor appropriate sanctions.”
Women’s Aid rarely comments on individual cases but feels the need to raise our concern at the decision this week. Ms Martin explains:
“As the leading organisation supporting women experiencing domestic violence, we can see that there is real anger at this latest decision and a sense of disbelief that an original sentence for this horrendous crime can be reduced by two whole years. It points to an overall lack of understanding of rape within marriage and the links between domestic and sexual violence among the judiciary. We need to see tougher and more consistent sentences for this crime which gives victims a real sense of justice. There is an urgent need for sentencing guidelines for domestic violence and rape cases and a programme of specialised training for judges and other legal professionals. Until this happens, many women will continue to receive inconsistent and often devastating outcomes.”
Ms Martin concludes:
“We offer our solidarity to the woman in this case as she tries to come to terms with this latest decision and all of the women who are experiencing this type of abuse but feel that they have very little recourse to justice. We encourage anyone who is in this situation to call our 24hr National Freephone Helpline – we are here to listen, believe and support women experiencing domestic violence.”
Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900
For more information email Christina Sherlock on email@example.com or phone 0879192457.
Notes to editors/producers: