Department of Justice and Equality and the Central Statistics Office sign Memorandum of Understanding on the Undertaking of a National Sexual Violence Prevalence Study


10 January 2019


The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has announced that the Department of Justice and Equality today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on the undertaking of a comprehensive national survey on the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. The MoU was signed by Aidan O’Driscoll, Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, and Pádraig Dalton, Director General of the CSO.


The signing follows the Government’s decision in November 2018 to carry out a major survey to look in detail at the experience of women and men of sexual violence and ensure that policy is better informed by contemporary and robust data. The survey will be repeated every decade to see how these experiences are changing over time. The MoU provides the framework within which this important study will take place. Work is now beginning in the CSO to prepare for the survey.


Minister Flanagan said: “I am very pleased to see this national survey integrated in the work programme of the Central Statistics Office. I am confident that the CSO will bring to this very large, complex and particularly sensitive survey the same rigorous ethical and professional standards applied in all the work of the Office”.


The decision to carry out the study followed repeated calls to undertake another survey similar to the ground-breaking SAVI study published in 2002. It is estimated that the project will require sustained effort by the CSO in the period 2019-23. While the CSO is statutorily independent in undertaking its work, it has developed processes for appropriate stakeholder engagement in large projects and will deploy suitable stakeholder arrangements in relation to the sexual violence prevalence survey. Among the stakeholders will be organisations in the sexual violence sector. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Health also have an ongoing interest in this survey.


The Minister added: “My priority in relation to this survey is not just getting it done. Because we are dealing with the lives and experiences of real people, my priority has to be getting it done right. To ensure that it is done right first time, resources and time are needed. And I am providing for both. The CSO with its expertise, integrity and independence are, without doubt, our best option for undertaking this work both now and into the future and my Department looks forward to our ongoing engagement with the CSO throughout the lifetime of this project”.


Funding of €150,000 has been made available for 2019 to allow the CSO to carry out essential technical research so that the survey can be smoothly implemented and robust and reliable data made available. The Government has further agreed in principle that once detailed budgets can be devised by the CSO, following preliminary research, any necessary resources will be made available to ensure the survey takes place.




Notes for editors:


Scoping group

A scoping group met for three months from January to April 2018 to draw up a list of data points to be included in the survey and consider related issues. The group was led by Dorothy Watson, Research Professor at the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin, with Departmental, academic and other experts. The report of the scoping group, submitted to Government by Minister Flanagan, is available here.


The primary focus of the scoping group’s report was the listing of a set of data points for the survey. These are data points, and not a questionnaire. Drawing up a questionnaire is a separate technical exercise, which will include a piloting process.


Availability of anonymised data from the survey to bona fide researchers

The CSO is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions. Any data gathered by the CSO under the Statistics Act, 1993 may not be disclosed to any third parties.


At the end of the survey, the CSO will store anonymised data from the survey and will make this anonymised data available to bona fide researchers to increase our understanding of the phenomenon of sexual violence, so that it can be dealt with more effectively. This will be done under the terms of the Statistics Act, 1993 and the strict controls outlined in the CSO Policy on Access to Research Microdata Files.


Supplementary data collection exercises

A whole of population survey can by definition only hope to gather data on small numbers of the members of particular minority groups. These small numbers make it statistically problematic to make detailed statements with sufficient confidence about these groups.


In order to address this, the Government has agreed in principle that a range of supplementary data collection exercises will be undertaken in the interim periods between major surveys to determine the experience of sexual violence of certain vulnerable and minority groups. Once the first survey is completed, its findings will be used as a background to more detailed research, perhaps of a qualitative as well as a quantitative nature, of specific groups.


SAVI study

Sexual Assault and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) was a national survey published in 2002. It was commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.