Belfast Telegraph

UN urged to investigate Government's progress over sex abuse victims' protection

The United Nations has been urged to put pressure on the Government to provide greater protection for sex abuse victims.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has asked the UN to investigate the Government's slow progress in introducing measures to protect victims of sexual violence.

A government delegation, led by Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, is due to attend a UN hearing in Geneva later this week.

Ahead of the meeting the Rape Crisis Centre has submitted a number of concerns to the UN Committee Against Torture.

The concerns include the slow roll out of Garda Protective Services Units specialising in investigating sexual crimes, the lack of special protection for victims in court and the absence of sufficient training for lawyers and law enforcement personnel, the centre said.

In its submission to the UN Committee the NGO also raised concern about low reporting rates, despite evidence of the widespread prevalence of sexual violence in the country.

The last comprehensive study in this area was published in 2002 and found that 42% of women had experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime and that only 10% of sexual offences were reported.

Chief executive of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Noeline Blackwell, said that the legal system should take special care of the victims of sexual violence.

"They are almost unique in the justice system because they have two roles: they are the victim of the crime, and the main person to give evidence in most cases," she added.

The report to the UN is critical of the lack of reliable data about sexual offences in Ireland. Ms Blackwell said: "If the data isn't reliable and comprehensive, how can the state know that it's taking the right actions to reduce and prevent sexual crime?"

She called for an in-depth study into sex abuse in Ireland, as well as better co-ordination of statistics gathered by state agencies.

Support services for sexual violence and domestic violence were hit with funding cuts from 2008 to 2015.

DRCC warned that this has led to a cut in rape crisis personnel and services.

"State-allocated funding of 19.5 million euro (£17.5m) in 2015 and 20.6 million euro (£18.5m) in 2016 remains inadequate to provide support for 60 separate services of which 46 are domestic violence services and 16 sexual violence / rape crisis services around the country.

"This is detrimental to those who rely on the services provided by the DRCC and other rape crisis centres, limiting victims' access to affordable, adequate and timely support and care," DRCC said in its submission to the UN.

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