35. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that there are sufficient supports for those who come forward to report historic allegations of sexual violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21105/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The recent statistical release of the Central Statistical Offence relating to the victims of crime recorded by An Garda Síochána in 2018 provides very useful information on the profile of the victims of crimes of sexual violence.
In considering this release, it is significant and to be welcomed that 63% of victims reporting crimes of sexual violence do so within one year.
It is also significant that 25% of victims reporting sexual crime are reporting ten years or more after the incident. This speaks to some extent about the current climate in relation to reporting.
There are a wide range of reasons why people are hesitant to report sexual crime. The time of reporting figures are, therefore, heartening. The suite of victim related legislative measures enacted in recent years along with awareness raising efforts has created a climate where people feel more comfortable to report what is happening now and what has happened in the past.
This is area where we need to maintain momentum and where we need to increase our efforts to make reporting including of historical allegations of sexual violence more likely.
In achieving this I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to addressing sexual violence and in fully supporting and assisting victims, including facilitating and enabling victims to come forward to report these horrific crimes regardless of the times such crimes were committed.
Significant efforts and resources are being directed in tackling the problem of sexual violence including the following measures.
- The Government’s Second National Strategy in tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence 2016-2021, which is in place as our overall policy framework in tackling these issues.
- Our laws in supporting victims of crime have also been significantly reformed and strengthened in recent years.
- Major structural and cultural reform is also being seen within our overall policing response to sexual crime and in how An Garda Síochána is dealing with such crime and in supporting victims of such offences.
- The Government has also approved a significant new national survey approach to the collection of data on the prevalence of sexual violence by the Central Statistics Office in Ireland and work is underway on this project.
- Work is also well advanced on the review, being chaired by Tom O’Malley, which is examining the protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.
- Significant financial resources continue to be made available by the State in addressing sexual violence. As an example of this, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency is allocating funding in 2019 of €25.3 million to Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services, this represents an increase of €4.9 million since 2015.
- €1.712m is also being made available by the Victims of Crime Office in my Department in 2019 to 57 community and voluntary sector organisations providing victim support services including to projects which directly support victims of sexual crimes.
Raising public awareness on these issues is also a key feature of our overall response in this area. As the Deputy will be aware, only last week I launched a major national awareness raising campaign on sexual harassment and sexual violence, the No Excuses campaign, on which we are set to spend in excess of €1m this year on the first year of the campaign. The aim of the campaign is to increase the awareness of sexual violence and to bring about changes in societal attitudes with the aim of decreasing and preventing this violence.
In concluding I would once again urge victims of sexual violence to continue to come forward to the Gardaí in reporting such violence including where this involves any historical allegations of such crimes.