Women enduring hundreds of sexual abuse incidents before reporting it

Women may endure “hundreds” of incidents of abuse before they contact gardaí, a leading sexual assault treatment expert has claimed.

Women enduring hundreds of sexual abuse incidents before reporting it

Women may endure “hundreds” of incidents of abuse before they contact gardaí, a leading sexual assault treatment expert has claimed.

Advanced nurse practitioner Margo Noonan, who runs the South Infirmary’s Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, said it usually takes an extremely violent act for the woman to finally seek help.

And often, a lot of women can't see what is happening to them is actually abuse.

She was speaking during today’s Cork University Maternity Hospital Domestic Violence Biennial Conference.

There, delegates heard women who die violently are more likely to be aged under 35, to be killed by someone they know and to be killed in their own home.

The key findings of Femicide Watch 2019 included the fact that 141 of the 231 who died violently between 1996 and 2019 died in their own homes.

This means they are more likely to be killed there than any other location.

And while 87% of women who died knew their killer, approximately half of victims were killed by a current or former male intimate partner.

Ms Noonan told the Irish Examiner: “When you have someone with a once-off sexual assault, they do come forward.

"But when it comes to intimate partner violence, it does take quite a bit for (victims) to come forward.

“I have seen situations where it wasn’t until maybe there was physical abuse or rape where they needed help and even with that, it’s quite difficult “People don’t recognise it. When you get a beating, you recognise it.

“The very first incident isn’t necessarily physical. It starts off fairly small and if you have that happening all the time, you don't recognise it for what it is.” 

Last May, gardaí said victims of domestic abuse will endure more than 30 incidents of abuse before reporting it to officers.

Asked about those remarks, Ms Noonan said: “I think 30 is a very conservative estimate. If we were to sit down and count everything, I think you could put an incident for every day they are in that relationship. It could be hundreds.”

She said this was because “many think what happens is too trivial or too unimportant to tell gardaí”.

The conference heard that while women of any age can be victims of Femicide - where a woman or girl is killed by a man because of their gender - the Women’s Aid report says women under the age of 35 make up 51% of cases here.

The report also states in 21 out of 22 of all the murder-suicide cases, the killer was the woman’s partner.

All 231 women who died in the 1996-2019 period are named in an In Memoriam section in the report.

They include Marilyn Rynn, the 41-year-old civil servant who was raped and murdered by 33-year-old married father-of-one David Lawlor, a first cousin of convicted Wicklow rapist Larry Murphy.

The telephone technician is believed to be the first person in Ireland to be convicted with DNA evidence.

They also include Veronica Guerin, the crime journalist shot dead by members of a drugs gang in 1996.

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