Even in a society where a man with 42 previous convictions, including one that led to a 15-year sentence for multiple rape and sexual assaults, is given a concurrent sentence for yet another rape — leading his victim to say he was given a “free rape” — there has been a profound shift in attitudes to violence against women.
This change was provoked, partially at least, by sobering statistics gathered over decades and published by Women’s Aid that show that of the 225 women murdered in Ireland since 1996, 90% were killed by a man known to them. More than half — 56% — were killed by a current or former partner. Those murder figures, almost one a month for 22 years, suggest domestic violence that is unacceptable.
Though not directly related, yesterday’s Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre accusation that staffing levels at sexual assault treatment units are “scandalous” feeds into the same narrative. DRCC warned that the unit at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, which covers one-third of the country, often cannot open at weekends as it does not have the staff to do so.
Like too many areas in health, good intentions are reduced to empty, ineffective tokenism because we cannot match need with resources or better manage resources already provided. This issue, and many others like it, show that no matter how social attitudes evolve, official Ireland, including the courts, lags behind in making new expectations and standards real.