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Dublin Rape Crisis Centre asks TDs to prioritise sexual offences Bill in forthcoming Dáil session.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has today mailed all Ministers and TDs, urging them to use their power in the forthcoming Dáil session to prioritise and ensure the passage of reforming legislation on sexual offences.
According to Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Centre, the current composition of the Dáil gives power to individual TDs to set the Dáil agenda. Calling for priority to be given to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 on the basis that it will stop child exploitation and abuse, she warned that ‘Every day that passes without this legislation is exposing the children of Ireland to the risk of awful harm> Over time, we in the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre are likely to hear from adults who were damaged as children through abuse.’ She said that the statistics of the Centre show that about half of the people who contact it are adult victims of childhood sexual abuse; amounting in 2015, to 5,776 or 49% of the overall calls to its National 24-Hour Helpline (1800 77 8888).
According to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 will plug gaps in the law relating to internet crime against children, as well as providing for reforms for persons with intellectual disabilities and children giving evidence in court. It will also decriminalise those exploited through human trafficking and prostitution. Ms. Blackwell noted that ‘The legislation has passed the Seanad with all party support. It has government priority. It just hasn’t been debated.’ If taken up, the Bill needs to be debated by the full Dáil before going to committee stage and ultimately being passed.
Noeline Blackwell, CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
The full text of the mail to TDs sent on 26 September 2016 is as follows:
Dear Deputy, May I begin by wishing you all the best as you start the new Oireachtas term this week. I am also using this mail as an opportunity to introduce myself in my role as CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre since March 2016.
One of the most remarkable statistics to emerge every year from the data of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is that half of those who contact our 24-Hour National Helpline or who come to us for therapy are victims of childhood sexual abuse. This was true again for our 2015 Report, launched at the end of July 2016 which can be accessed here: http://www.drcc.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DRCC2015-Final-Version-HR.pdf.
You will not need me to tell you of the horror and harm suffered by a child who is sexually abused. At Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, we know that many who contact us bear their very considerable suffering in silence for years, even for decades. We want to highlight the need for better legal protection for today’s children, to prevent them becoming tomorrow’s callers to our services.
In particular, our current laws are insufficient to protect children against pernicious abuse over the internet. That abuse, including grooming children for sexual exploitation and child pornography, cannot be stopped or prosecuted at the moment. Our laws are just not fit for modern technology. However, if the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was passed, many of the evils now possible would be criminal acts and could be prosecuted and the offenders stopped.
Particularly in a Dáil where so much depends on agreement and the momentum of the deputies, you individually could promote this Bill which has passed the Seanad with all party support. It has government priority. It just hasn’t been debated. That is a shame. Every day that passes without this legislation is exposing the children of Ireland to the risk of awful harm that we in the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre are likely to hear about in the future from adults who were damaged as children through abuse. That is our interest: a safer Ireland where harm is prevented allowing children to grow without the burden of sexual exploitation and abuse.
We appeal to you to prioritise and expedite this legislation. The Bill has other important reforms. It will reduce the risk of children being subjected to abuse in the course of a court case. It will standardise the circumstances in which therapy notes can be used in court. It will decriminalise the traumatised, exploited victims of trafficking and prostitution and will put the emphasis on suppressing demand for prostitution. I would have to add that there are some provisions that could also be added which would improve the legislation further. For instance, the provisions that would prevent children being abused in court cases could be extended to other vulnerable adults, while protecting the right of an accused to a fair trial. What constitutes ‘consent’ could be clarified to make it easier to understand and identify sexual violence. These are matters that we would like to see taken up during the debate.
However the main purpose of this mail is to ask you to please seek priority for this legislation and to begin the Second Stage debate which will allow this very important, relevant, protective legislation to progress. I would be happy to discuss any aspect of this with you if you wish. Yours etc.