Rape cases - Attitudes must change

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre raises a critical question about attitudes to rape Ireland in her comment on the brutal murder of a 23-year-old Indian medical student, an appalling crime which has drawn worldwide condemnation. She asks: New Delhi and Dublin — how far apart are we?

With protests sweeping India following the vicious gang rape by six men, who beat the young woman with an iron rod and then callously dumped her from a moving bus, it is a timely and apposite question.

Sexual abuse and molestation of women are endemic in India. A rape occurs every 18 hours in Delhi, a city with a population of 14m. Yet astonishingly only 572 rapes were officially reported there in 2011.

Last year, in comparison, trained volunteers at the crisis centre in Dublin, a city of over 1.2m people, accompanied 270 victims of recent rape and sexual assault to the treatment unit at the Rotunda Hospital. Yet official figures suggest this is merely the tip of an iceberg as only one in 10 rapes in Dublin are believed to be reported to the gardaí.

In effect, Indian and Irish women have cause to claim that the heinous crime of rape is committed with impunity in both countries. If anything, the outcry in India underlines the urgent need for a change of attitudes towards rape in this country.

It also highlights the glaring need for clear and unambiguous guidelines so as to achieve consistency of judicial sentencing in sexual assault and rape cases. Recent verdicts handed down by some judges have shocked public opinion. Undeniably, members of the judiciary are widely perceived as being out of touch with reality when it comes to dealing with grave crimes against women.

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