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Experts warn of rise in number of sex attacks by young people

The number of defilement offences increased by 20% in Ireland last year.

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Recent studies show a growing trend of younger people committing sexual offences (Niall Carson/PA)

Recent studies show a growing trend of younger people committing sexual offences (Niall Carson/PA)

Recent studies show a growing trend of younger people committing sexual offences (Niall Carson/PA)

The number of young people carrying out sex attacks is on the rise in Ireland, legal experts have said.

Recent studies show a growing trend of younger people committing sexual offences, which Rape Crisis Network Ireland legal director Caroline Counihan described as “concerning”.

Last year the number of defilement offences increased by 20%.

“That jumped out at me as a big figure, it is quite a big rise in one year,” Ms Counihan said.

“I think it means there are more people reporting the crime and it makes me think if there is more sexual activity being conducted against children which is worrying.

“It could show there is more sexual violence happening among younger people. That’s a concern.”

The whole area around sexual violence is so incredibly underfunded given the scale of the issue. It will be a long time before it will be enoughDr Cliona Saidlear, Rape Crisis Network Ireland

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She said that rape crisis centres around the country have reported an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence.

“I had one centre which had very few reporting for a number of years and in the last six months the number has doubled,” she added.

“There’s of course heightened awareness with the Me Too movement.

“The gardai are saying they have also seen a dramatic spike in sexual assault reports in DPSU (Divisional Protective Services Units) areas.”

The specialised units were set up by gardai to investigate sexual abuse and domestic violence cases.

The director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland said it found that almost 40% of children who were victims of sexual violence were abused by another child.

Dr Cliona Saidlear said that young girls need to be made aware that young boys who sit with them in the classroom can also be a danger.

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Dr Cliona Saidlear sought to raise awareness of abuse by children (Rape Crisis Network Ireland/PA)

Dr Cliona Saidlear sought to raise awareness of abuse by children (Rape Crisis Network Ireland/PA)

Dr Cliona Saidlear sought to raise awareness of abuse by children (Rape Crisis Network Ireland/PA)

The Department of Education is currently carrying out a review of sex education and how consent is taught to school children.

Dr Saidlear added: “They are doing a whole system review – they are not just looking at the curriculum content but they are also looking at what happens in the corridor.

“It’s about how the whole school responds and creates a safe place.

“Sex education around sexual violence is really about tools to help people around inappropriate behaviour and recognising behaviour in themselves.

“It has shifted that focus from stranger danger and that dirty-old-man kind of image we have.

“We really need to say that young boys can also be a danger to young girls, it isn’t all just fun.

“The sexual violence that is being perpetrated mostly by young boys on young girls, was being named all the time in the public discourse as Romeo and Juliet, we were telling girls who were being raped that it was romance gone wrong, that it was disapproved of by adults.”

Last week Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed that Sex Assault Treatment Units (SATU) would receive an additional 500,000 euro in funding.

Following a policy review of the SATU services, the number of forensic nurse examiners will also rise from six to 15.

Dr Saidlear said, however, that sexual violence is “incredibly underfunded” in Ireland.

“One of the critical issues is around staff training and retention,” she added.

“The whole area around sexual violence is so incredibly underfunded given the scale of the issue. It will be a long time before it will be enough.”


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