‘Trump destigmatised reporting of incidents’ says Rape Crisis Network of Ireland head

Rape Crisis Network Ireland administrator Claire Geldhill and executive director Clíona Saidléar. Picture: Gareth Chaney

US president-elect Donald Trump may have helped to destigmatise the reporting of sexual violence, according to the head of the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI).

During the US election campaign, several women claimed that Mr Trump had sexually assaulted them, which he denied.

An audio recording of Mr Trump also emerged where he could be heard saying to “grab” women’s body parts and “you can do anything”.

He later apologised for the remarks.

Clíona Saidléar, executive director of the RCNI, said at the launch of the network’s annual report that Mr Trump’s remarks and the subsequent maelstrom may have in fact helped the public discussion around sexual violence.

Ms Saidléar said that with rape and sexual assault there can be a lot of minimisation but that the controversy that surrounded Mr Trump had opened up the issue.

“I think one of the biggest barriers that we’ve had is around minimisation and denial and that’s around a sort of, if you like, pornographied culture where essentially we lose sight of sexual violence because consent has dropped off the table and everyone’s available,”said Ms Saidléar.

“So we can’t name sexual violence anymore and you have a number of incidences you can think of in the courts where you’ll get the perpetrators essentially saying, ‘Well everyone’s doing it so of course I did it’.”

She said “minimisation” is now disappearing as a result of recent events in the US election campaign.

“So in fact, it may be helpful because the minimisation and denial that we had, that cultural ‘just get on with it, just be quiet, just don’t name it,’ is really challenged.

“That notion that we’re post-feminist — no one argues that we’re post-feminist anymore.”

RCNI’s annual report shows 96% of perpetrators of sexual violence were male and 88% of survivors of sexual assault were female.

Ms Saidléar was asked whether this 88% was influenced by males under-reporting incidents.

“One of the issues for women reporting is we know women deny and minimise, labelling it as ‘bad sex’ or ‘sex I said no to’.

“Men tend not to do that, men tend to know when they’ve experienced sexual violence and be very clear on naming it,” she said.

Rape Crisis Centre national 24-hour helpline: 1800 778888 or go to rapecrisishelp.ie


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