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Rape victims must be encouraged to tell their stories, not silenced

Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald both emphasised the fact that Máiria Cahill’s allegation of rape against a senior member of the Belfast IRA had been before the courts and the accused had been acquitted. It appears that Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence and the case collapsed.

It may be of interest to your readers to learn that a 10-year research project Rape Review —Understanding attrition in rape allegations in London by Professor Betsy Stanko published in 2010 found that one third of victims are under 18, only 5.3% of allegations resulted in a conviction, of arrested suspects 13.7% were convicted, and of all charged suspects 31.3% were convicted. This shows t there is huge attrition between the first allegation and getting into court and even when the case goes before a jury, in seven out of 10 cases the victim either withdraws their testimony or the accused is acquitted. If the victim is particularly vulnerable to pressure, then the likelihood of withdrawing their evidence increases.

I could not imagine that it was his intention, but Gerry Adams comments make it harder for any victim to report rape for fear of not being believed.

The British have learned from the Jimmy Savile case just how insidious the culture of silence around rape can be. We in Ireland also know this to our cost. There are very serious questions to be answered after Ms Cahill’s interview. They must be answered one way or the other if victims are going to be encouraged to tell their story. We cannot afford the silence.

Barry Keane

Glendalough Park

Cork


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