A leading campaigner for victims of sexual violence has welcomed a 48% increase in the number of reported rapes in Cork City since the start of the year as a sign that people are becoming more willing to come forward.
Mary Crilly, director of the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork, said the fact 49 rapes have been reported to gardaí so far this year — up from 33 for the same period last year — doesn’t mean that rape is on the increase but actually reflects the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland today.
“In previous years, the relatively low rape reporting figures tended to suggest that sexual violence and rape wasn’t a problem,” she said.
So I am glad to see this rise in the number of reported cases. It is reflective of the extent of the problem.
“I think it’s a sign also that people are saying enough is enough and feel more confident in reporting rape to the gardaí. But there is still much work to be done.”
Ms Crilly was speaking after a crime figures briefing by senior gardaí to the Cork City joint policing committee (JPC) this week.
Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin told the committee there has been a 6% drop in the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults in the Cork City Garda division in the period January 1 to October 2018 compared to the same period last year — down from a combined total of 155 to 145.
A breakdown in the figures shows the number of reported sexual assaults (not aggravated) in the city is down 21% from 122 in the first 10 months of 2017 to 96 so far this year.
However, the number of reported rapes is up from 33 in the first 10 months of last year to 49 so far this year — an increase of 48%.
Chief Supt McPolin said he was not in a position at the JPC to clarify how many of those cases may be historic.
Ms Crilly said the establishment of the Garda’s dedicated Protective Services Unit at Anglesea St to investigate sexual crime, human trafficking, child abuse, and domestic abuse has been a positive development in encouraging more people to report. She said similar units are needed in north and west Cork.
Ms Crilly also criticised the legal system which allowed the defence team in a rape trial in Cork last week to use a teenager’s underwear — a thong with a lace front — as evidence against her. Ms Crilly said she did not want to “scapegoat” an individual but suggested the criticism should be focused on a system which allows such an argument go unchallenged.