A wake-up call for all of us - University sex attacks survey

IT must be a wake-up call of sorts when a third of 333 UCC students say they have been the victim of minor sexual assaults. It is certainly a wake-up call of spectacular proportions that 15% say they have been raped or been the victim of another kind of serious sexual assault.

These figures are even more worrying as they probably reflect the unattractive reality that prevails in wider society — a long-standing culture of under-reporting because victims are not prepared to trust the justice system. That 82% of the student respondents did not know how to report a sexual offence feeds into this theory and suggests we need to do a lot more to empower young people to know how to protect themselves by doing no more than asserting the rights any civilised society would afford them.

There is no point, however, in doing this unless legitimate complainants can believe they will get the attention their position demands, and that the justice system will automatically believe them until someone can prove otherwise. That covers one side of the equation, but leaves the question of how so many people can feel free to be so very sexually aggressive. All the usual excuses can be advanced, but one or two simple truths seem hard to deny. We need to do more to teach our young people about the value of mutual respect, and it is hard not to think that excessive drinking played a part in creating these shocking statistics.

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