373 girls of schoolgoing age raped in one year

MORE than 370 girls of schoolgoing age were raped in Ireland in one year, shocking statistics show.

The crime figure points to 373 secondary schoolgirls, between the ages of 15 and 18, being raped in 2007.

The research further notes 365 victims were aged between 15-17.

The figures were revealed as part of research for an Oireachtas study on early school leavers currently being conducted by Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames and Dr Jude Cosgrove of the Educational Research Centre. The figures have been backed by the Rape Crisis Network.

According to the study, teen victims are dropping out of school as a result of traumatic sexual violence and because there are no support services in place to help them. The preliminary findings from the Oireachtas study, Under-Achievement at Second Level – The Way Forward, show 94% of teenage rape victims in one region of the country had left school early.

Ms Healy-Eames said full details of the research will be published in the autumn. She described the figures as “chilling”. She said the report would hope to recommend that all schools meet with rape crisis personnel to find a way to help young victims.

“This is a major new finding which we did not expect,” said Ms Healy-Eames. “Schools need to be ready.”

“The figures indicate that the equivalent of one secondary schoolgirl a day is a victim of rape which is causing early school leaving in the vast majority of these cases.”

Fiona Neary, head of the Rape Crisis Network, said victims of rape at such a young age were particularly vulnerable, and experienced a wide range of problems which if not dealt with had a “chronic” impact on their lives.

“Victims of rape of that age experience a range of difficulties in maintaining normal life and schools are not equipped to deal with it,” she said. “Psychological support services specifically geared towards teenagers are needed, but they simply are not there.”

Ms Neary said it was having a real impact on young people’s education.

Ms Healy-Eames said students needed to be educated by trained personnel who could sensitively address issues surrounding sexuality including assault and rape.

“This study shows that rape crisis centres know best how to sensitively approach and address sexuality and abuse that can emerge as a result of rape. Schools need to help raise students’ awareness so that, if needed, girls will have the confidence and knowledge to seek the help they need.”

The unpublished report focuses on children who are at risk of leaving school early and will put a number of recommendations to the Department of Education for consideration.

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