Rape victim Lavinia Kerwick: Calls for reform of justice system

We owe rape survivor Lavinia Kerwick a huge debt of gratitude. 

Without her courage as a teenager, it is unlikely that we would have victim impact statements in courts and a system of appeal of a lenient sentence. 

Within a year of her going public about her dreadful ordeal, legislation governing those areas was introduced.

Now, more than a quarter of a century later, Ms Kerwick has gone public again, in the wake of recent rape trials, saying it is “clear as day the system isn’t working”.

Speaking at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s annual report, Ms Kerwick called for more garda supports for victims of sexual assaults and urged Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to demand reforms of the justice system.

Ms Kerwick was 19 when she was raped on New Year’s Eve of 1991. 

Her attacker pleaded guilty to raping her and was given a suspended sentence.

It was more like a life sentence for her, as both the rape itself and her treatment in the courts were devastating, “tearing my life to shreds”, with huge physical, emotional and psychological consequences.

It took enormous courage for Ms Kerwick to go public, but, as she put it: “If I didn’t expose it, rape would remain silent, but rape isn’t silent. It’s brutal. It’s violent and it hurts.”

Her new campaign should inspire all within the justice system to be equally courageous and make it fit for purpose.

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