In 1990, Irish law pertaining to rape changed significantly. The Criminal Law (Rape Amendment) Act 1990 abolished any rule of law by virtue of which a husband could be found innocent of raping his wife.
This groundbreaking piece of legislation gave a very clear message that the horror of rape within marriage was no longer acceptable to Irish society.
Yet it has taken 12 years for a jury to convict anyone of this crime.
We know from the recently published SAVI (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) report that over one quarter of women who experience rape and sexual assault are in fact, raped and sexually assaulted by intimate partners or ex-partners.
Rape is probably our most underreported crime, with only 9% of survivors prepared to come forward and report it to the Gardaí.
Why? Rape Crisis Centres have known for many years that women do not report for a wide variety of reasons such as their relationship to the assailant, fear, shame and the genuine concern that they will not be supported by our legal system.
Martial rape is an appalling crime and yet it is the only crime of a sexually violent nature that requires the Director of Public Prosecution’s consent to commence prosecution.
So the Rape Crisis Network Ireland poses these questions: is that supportive of women brave enough to report rape within marriage? And do we not, as a society, have a moral obligation to make the process of reporting all crimes as easy as possible, to lessen the trauma as much as possible? Finally, are we continuing to fail Irish women?