Sexual violence report – why such high statistics?

Sexual violence report – why such high statistics?

What are we to make of the appalling report from the Central Statistics Office that a quarter of adult women in Ireland have experienced sexual violence from a partner?

“The online acceptance of casual relationships must surely be a risk factor”

According to the Sexual Violence Survey 2022, over half of the victims had been violently assaulted more than once. Violence occurred more frequently to single people than to those who were married. And graduates were victims more often than to those with lower educational attainments – 34% of those with third-level education reported having experienced sexual violence as opposed to just 6% of those with less education.

The pub, the club or the disco emerged as the most likely location for such violent episodes. (Men experienced sexual violence too – but only 6% of victims were male. More than half of bisexual people reported higher levels of sexual violence, running at 55%.)

It is always difficult to discern whether distressing statistics like these emerge from a greater awareness and readiness to report such incidents; or whether there is currently an alarming amount of sexual violence in society at large.

Contemporary life

But some of the conditions of contemporary life may well prompt or endorse the prevalence of sexual violence. One, surely, is the easy availability of pornography. A survey by the Children’s Commissioner in the UK earlier this year reported that the average age at which a youngster sees on-line pornography is 13; and 10% start seeing porn at age 9. The UK report emphasised that “early exposure and frequent consumption” of porn leads to “harmful attitudes and behaviours”. Much of this online porn focuses on sexual violence.

The online acceptance of casual relationships must surely be a risk factor. There was a reason why traditions of courtship once involved a test of character, whereby someone’s personality became apparent before any relationship became intimate or committed.

Since pubs and clubs are mentioned as the locations of assault, drink and drugs must be part of the picture.

And I wonder if the emphasis on equality between the sexes lacks realistic perspective? Yes, men and women are intellectually equal and have equal rights before the law: but males are, everywhere, more risk-taking than females, more likely to be reckless and to invite danger. While women – as rape and assault statistics show – are more physically vulnerable, and on common-sense grounds, need to be more prudent.

{{This shocking report should be met with a probing, honest analysis of some of the reasons why so much sexual violence occurs”

Bad things have always happened, but a civilised society strives to prevent assault and battery. This shocking report should be met with a probing, honest analysis of some of the reasons why so much sexual violence occurs.


McQuaid meets a feisty nun…

Anecdotes about Archbishop John Charles McQuaid are legendary, and I seem to encounter ever more of them. The most recent story arises in the writer A.N. Wilson’s affecting memoir Confessions – a Life of Failed Promises. Andrew Wilson’s primary school was a Staffordshire convent, where he was taught by a wonderful Dominican nun Sr Mary Mark, whom he revered. Sr Mary had also encouraged a clever young Irish pupil, Mary O’Donnell, to apply to Trinity College Dublin, and the student was admitted with flying colours.

But back came a missive from John Charles in which he informed the nun that he would excommunicate this Catholic student if she attended TCD. He would also excommunicate the entire convent of nuns in Stone, Staffordshire, for encouraging Catholic girls to apply to this Protestant foundation.

Sr Mary Mark composed a letter in her elegant Italic hand, “pointing out to the archbishop that his jurisdiction did not stretch beyond the archdiocese of Dublin, let alone across the Irish Sea to Staffordshire”. The young student went to Trinity, and became a very successful graduate.

This Staffordshire nun – a grand-daughter of the great Italian actress Eleanora Duse – was the second Dominican sister to square up to John Charles. Our brilliant late historian Margaret MacCurtain – Sr Benvenuta OP – also famously refused Dr McQuaid’s order that she submit her UCD history notes to him. Sr Ben pointed out that she and her prioress answered to Rome, not to the Dublin diocese.

John Charles McQuaid did many good things during his stewardship, and his own pupils spoke warmly of him as a teacher, but he did like to extend his control. It took a feisty nun – or two – to point out the limits of his reach.


Gardening neglect…

The famous Chelsea Flower Show in London this year features weeds, wildness, nettles, brambles, and dandelions. The tidy herbaceous border garden is now well out of fashion: the ‘re-wilded’ garden is the vogue. Even rubble and bits of old corrugated iron are acceptable parts of garden displays.

Delighted to learn that I am now completely on-trend, with a small garden run amok with all kinds of wildflowers, ferns, grasses and weeds. And a by-product of my gardening neglect is constant, beautiful birdsong.