Three teenage female college students have been raped in Cork since the start of the university term.
Mary Crilly, the head of the city’s Sexual Violence Centre (SVC), revealed the shocking details of the assaults as she warned about “male predators” who are targeting women as they leave pubs and nightclubs.
She said the centre had seven requests for “initial appointments” last Monday linked to separate incidents in the previous few days.
And she also called for more resources and gardaí for the city’s Garda Protective Services Unit — the specialist unit set up to investigate a range of serious crimes, including rape and sexual assault.
She was speaking at a meeting of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).
Ms Crilly said the centre has been made aware of the three rapes of first-year college students in recent weeks — none of which has been reported to gardaí.
She said the victims were all young women, aged 18 or 19, who were just embarking on what should have been an exciting time in third-level education.
She said none of the women has reported the assaults to gardaí because they feel the attacks “may have been their own fault”, and that one of the young women felt she could not even tell her own parents because alcohol was involved and she felt she should not have been drinking.
The sexual assaults have had a devastating impact on the young women and forced two of them to drop out of college, she said.
SVC staff are working with one of the women to encourage her to remain in college.
“They were attending first night parties and were ‘caught on the hop’,” said Ms Crilly.
In some of the cases, the attack happened in their own student accommodation where they felt they were quite safe, where they felt they were not going out on the road, not getting a taxi, not walking home.
She cited a US study which found September to November is the most dangerous time for college fresher students, given the number of parties they attend and the availability of alcohol at these parties.
However, Ms Crilly said alcohol is not always involved, and warned that sometimes rape victims can be seduced.
She said the city’s Protective Services Unit needs more staff and resources.
“For a city the size of Cork, to have six people in its unit is ridiculous,” she said. “It needs more resources.
It should have at least 20 gardaí involved given that it has to deal with domestic violence and human trafficking as well.
The Garda National Protective Services Bureau deals with a range of the most serious crimes, including online child exploitation and child protection, the investigation of organised prostitution, and the management of sex offenders.
The bureau leads the investigation in more complex cases.
The JPC was presented with figures yesterday which show there has been a 52% increase in the number of reported incidents of rape of a male or female in the Cork City garda division, between January and August this year compared to the same period last year — up from 23 to 35.
However, Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin said many of these relate to historic cases and reflect the confidence the public has in reporting such cases to gardaí.