herald

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Flanagan concerned by 'disturbingly high levels of sex offences'

Minister Charlie Flanagan
Minister Charlie Flanagan

The justice minister has said he is "concerned" about an under-reporting of sexual offences as he launched a campaign raising awareness of sexual harassment.

The "No Excuses" campaign will run over the next three years in response to what Charlie Flanagan described as "disturbingly high levels" of sexual-related harassment.

Consent

The ads will start playing on various media including TV from tonight and will feature a range of scenarios including in the workplace, a bar and a locker room.

They feature sexual harassment and unwanted sexual activity, as well as attempting to prey on someone not in a position to give consent.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Mr Flanagan said the aim was to make people question their responses to such incidents, which he said were "endemic" in society.

He also raised concerns about under-reporting of sexual offences in Ireland, even though recent figures show that the country has the highest recorded level of sexual harassment in Europe.

"I'm concerned that there is an under-reporting for a number of reasons," he said.

"I'm very keen that that changes. People who are in positions of vulnerability, people who are abused, people who are subjected to harassment should be comfortable in reporting.

"We have on a daily basis, on a nightly basis, behaviour which is unacceptable.

"Often times it goes without comment, often times it's unfortunately and regrettably taken for granted.

"Research has shown that Ireland suffers from disturbingly high levels of sexual harassment.

"These ads highlight and help people recognise these behaviours and the many precursors to them."

Highest

Recent figures from WIN International show that 32pc of Irish women between the ages of 18 and 34 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last 12 months - the highest figure in Europe.

The number of alleged sexual offences is also increasing, with 3,182 reported last year, an increase of 26pc compared with 2017.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell said the ads showed non-consensual behaviour which is "wrong behaviour".

"What this is aiming to do is try and have a debate in our society which says 'how do we behave reasonably and decently with each other?'

"I think even those of us who don't engage in that behaviour ourselves, who recognised that it's wrongful, we all have to be careful that we are in solidarity with people who are hurt by it.

"We have to call out our friends, we have to call out colleagues at work when it happens and we have to say this is not acceptable, we will not tolerate it in our society."

In recent months gardai have made a number of advancements in assisting vulnerable victims.

Ten divisional protective service units have been rolled out in various parts of the country since last year. They focus on specialised crime types, including sexual crime, child abuse and domestic abuse.

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