The chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has queried whether the country has failed to tackle the "epidemic" of sexual violence over the past two decades and said changes were needed across society, including in the education and justice systems.
Noeline Blackwell said of the findings, published today by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and NUI Maynooth: "We are at the start of the journey rather than having made significant progress."
The study finds that 49% of women and 19% of men reported being sexually assaulted or harassed, figures comparable to those in the SAVI Report almost two decades ago.
"Whether this trend is due to changes in the occurrence of sexual violence, or a greater willingness to report such experiences, potentially facilitated by recent high-profile movements such as 'Me Too', however, remains unclear," it said.
Noeline Blackwell said the findings were "not surprising and consistent with what we see and hear on the 24-hour helpline - that there is a quite substantial prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland, and that is even borne out in Programme for Government which names sexual violence as an epidemic."
Echoing the views expressed in the study, she said it was not possible to say whether the figures reflected the rate of sexual harassment and violence or a greater likelihood of people reporting it, but added that given the DAVI Report also included a significant number of people disclosing sexual violence for the first time, "there is a real chance that we are no better off".
She said that the empowering of those who experience those crimes, changes to the justice system and awareness-raising were key requirements, as well as opening up enhanced menta; health supports for those who need them.
She praised the resilience of those who have experienced sexual violence and progress in recent years on the issue of consent, but said more needed to be done.
"I don't think this is the type of crime that will ever be reported to the same extent that your car is stolen," she said.
Dr Frédérique Vallières, Director of the Trinity Centre for Global Health, Trinity College and study co-lead said: “We noted substantial differences in the rates of sexual violence between men and women, whereby women were found to be significantly more likely than men to have experienced sexual violence.
"These figures are particularly important to communicate today, on the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”
Dr Philip Hyland, Associate Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology at Maynooth University and study co-lead, said: “Our findings show that people who had been raped or sexually harassed were more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems in adulthood including Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, and Generalised Anxiety.
“Survivors of sexual violence were just as likely as those who had never been exposed to sexual violence to be in long-term committed relationships, to be employed, to be earning a high salary, and to have attended university. In some cases, survivors of sexual violence were doing better compared to those who had not suffered sexual violence.
"These findings show that despite living with the mental health effects of their trauma, survivors of sexual violence are extremely resilient.”