Victim's rights campaigner says Kriegel family's words were 'the most important' she's heard

Victim's rights campaigner says Kriegel family's words were 'the most important' she's heard
Patric and Geraldine Kriégel speaking to media outside court today. Pic: Collins

A rape victim who successfully campaigned for victim impact statements to be introduced in court said hearing the Kriegels' words after their daughter’s killers were convicted of murder and sexual assault were “the most important" she’s heard since she started campaigning.

Schoolgirl Ana Kriegel was murdered by two boys who were 13 at the time. One of boys also sexually assaulted her. The court heard he had viewed violent porn on his mobile phone before the killing.

The case has raised difficult questions about rape culture, the effects of pornography and consent, issues echoed at a conference which marked the 40th anniversary of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

The conference opening speaker, rape victim and victim's rights campaigner Lavinia Kerwick, said: “I send huge sympathies to her [Ana's] parents. It was the most important, heartfelt victim impact statement I’ve heard since I started campaigning.

“Rape culture in this country is all about consent. People have an issue talking about consent but no one wants their son to go out and rape someone.

“Consent is a hugely important discussion to have but are we brave enough to have it? If we are it will be hugely beneficial to society."

Ms Kerwick was violently assaulted by her former boyfriend when she was 19. After he pleaded guilty but walked free from court with a suspended sentence, Ms Kerwick became the first person in Ireland to waive her right to anonymity when she spoke on radio to the late Gerry Ryan in 1993.

Since then, she has campaigned for victims’ rights and has seen slow but positive changes.

She said: “When I spoke out before about my own rape, there was an attitude of ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’. But it’s not like that anymore.

“I think one thing that has changed is that people are talking about rape, they are now able to say the word ‘rape.’ People are disgusted by it, not like in old Ireland when people said ‘what’s she going on about? He only roughed her up a bit.’

“There’s more anger about sexual violence now, especially in the justice system.

“We all have to work together to end rape culture. I don’t want to see another girl who has been raped walk out of court and just be raped again by the system. Because that’s what a lot of victims feel - that they are raped all over again by the justice system."

Rape victim and victim's rights campaigner Lavinia Kerwick
Rape victim and victim's rights campaigner Lavinia Kerwick

She said that the Rape Crisis Centre is a lifeline for many people.

Noeline Blackwell, DRCC CEO said sexual violence amongst young people was a “longstanding concern.”

“A lot of clients and people who call the helpline are young," she said.

“Young people and their teachers are telling us that they’re ignorant about the realities of sex, of sex education and of healthy relationship education.

“Most children get information on sex firstly from their friends, and secondly from the internet. And most of their friends get their information from pornography. So, the information they’re getting is manifestly wrong, false and objectifies people."

Ms Blackwell welcomed a new recommendation, to be launched today , by the Law Reform Commission which would make it necessary for an accused rapist to prove that they believed sex was consensual.

“Currently in a case where a man charged with rape says, ‘I honestly believed it was consensual,’ the court must acquit him. But the new recommendation would create some burden of proof, so that the accused would have to show some level of reasonableness to have held that belief."

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