Sexual assault case - Victim must be supported

The Listowel sexual assault case continued to reverberate over the weekend after the victim gave a press conference and was interviewed on Marian Finucane’s radio programme yesterday.

In a strange way the assault hasalmost faded into the background as the focus has been turned on subsequent incidents, especially thebehaviour of various people in the court prior to Danny Foley’s sentencing.

Fewer than 10% of reported sexual assaults in this country result in convictions. In many instances the victims are afraid to pursue a case because of publicity, so in this case the victim deserves public support for having had the courage to do the right thing.

Hopefully this will encourage other women in similar circumstances. Even though this country has one of the lowest conviction rates for such crimes, it should be remembered that a jury unanimously convicted Danny Foley.

There is little doubt from Judge Donagh McDonagh’s summation that he was also sending out another message about the offensive way in which the accused sought to blame the victim in his own defence. This tactic clearly failed to impress either the jury, or the judge. People make mistakes throughout life and forgiveness has always been a characteristic of a truly Christian society, but in this case the convict expressed no remorse. What was so revolting about what happened in the court on the day of sentencing, was that by their behaviour so many people seemed to be endorsing the despicable defence that the victim was somehow to blame. In any court of justice, the victims deserve the sympathy, and in this instance the victim deserves the full support of society, because she has made a valuable contribution towards rectifying our deficiencies in such matters.

Society has treated various forms of sexual assault as a taboo subject for too long, with the victims being left to suffer in silence or treated as the virtual perpetrators. This must stop, and society must face the problem in all its sordid forms.


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