We must teach the importance of sexual consent at early age
The murder of Ashling Murphy has highlighted the very real danger to women in our society.
Ashling was murdered while out for a run along the Grand Canal, a popular path for walkers close to her home in Tullamore, County Offaly.
The 23-year-old was a recently qualified teacher, a talented musician, a much-loved daughter and sister.
A collective outpouring of grief has followed her death, the cards and drawings from her Primary One class, who clearly idolised her, would bring a tear to a stone.
Pictures of the beautiful young woman with her family, proudly posing on her graduation and performing music, something she clearly loved, has touched us all.
I don’t think there is a home the length and breadth of this island, north or south, who have been moved by the murder and senseless loss of such an inspiring young woman.
Ashling’s murder has highlighted the fears women have of being attacked and the worry we have for our daughters every time they leave the house.
Taking pictures of taxi registrations and sending them to a friend before you get in the car, walking the long route because it’s more brightly lit, crossing the road to avoid crowds of men, keeping your hand on keys or a can of hairspray in case someone comes up behind you.
The round robin of calls and texts to make sure everyone got home safely after a night out.
We know it’s not all men, I am lucky to have supportive and protective men in my life who will always have my back, but it is some men, and they don’t have it tattooed on their heads so it’s often impossible to know who the bad ones are until it’s too late.
Ashling’s murder is shocking and has highlighted all our worst fears, but stranger murder is very rare.
Women are more than likely to be murdered in their own home by someone they know, a partner or male relative.
I have reported on far too many acts of violence, the images of the women murdered in the last 20-years, the cases I’ve covered, the trials I’ve sat through are seared into my mind.
One is too many, but it is now a far too common occurrence.
New legislation passing through Stormont will help, but the judicial system only kicks in after an attack.
The real issue for society is addressing the issue of violence against woman and girls much earlier on in our children’s lives.
Teaching the importance of healthy relationships and what sexual consent looks like.
Making sure the next generation of young men and women, know the importance of valuing themselves and others.
Prevention is key and right now it feels like there are aspects of our society that still don’t want to speak about these issues.
Who feel embarrassed or constricted by a socially conservative upbringing, that make them uncomfortable addressing things that take place behind closed doors and were once rarely spoken about.
It needs brought out into the open, we need to listen to the experiences of others and to address that other pandemic, that cancer in our society that makes Northern Ireland one of the most dangerous places in Europe for women to live, second only to Romania.
Finally, and I thought long and hard about giving them any attention, but feel it needs to be said.
On Saturday a group calling themselves the Irish Men’s Rosary disrupted a Dublin vigil for the murdered schoolteacher.
TD Maurice Quinlivan posted online that the men, “raised the sound on the PA system every time anyone spoke at the vigil — despite being politely asked by the organisers to move.”
I hadn’t heard of this group before but on checking, they are mainly middle-aged men who travel around with a statue saying the rosary in various towns and cities, that might seem like a bizarre but fairly harmless pastime until you look at those behind the group.
The Irish men’s rosary was started by Patrick McCrystal from Northern Ireland who also fronts up Human Life International.
A qualified pharmacist he refused to dispense the contraceptive pill and what he called other “abortifacients”. He is author of a book entitled “Who’s at the Centre of your marriage...the Pill or Jesus Christ?”
He is against the HPV vaccine and has instead called for the money to be channelled into “chastity programmes” for young people.
Speeches at the rosary sessions, include rants about Covid restrictions and vaccinations, abortion, and ‘globalisation’ far from a benign group of eccentric grandfathers these are people who hark back to the religiously restrictive Ireland of a bygone era.
Only they can answer why they felt their god would approve of them disrupting a vigil to a murdered young woman who lived her Christianity every day in her work and deeds.
There is nothing Christian or Catholic about their behaviour and I genuinely hope it doesn’t take away from the vast majority of people who send their love to the family of Ashling and all the other young women who have lost their lives to male violence.