Statement on the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report


I very much welcome the opportunity to address this important topic raised by Senator Ruane.


The Government is totally committed to preventing and addressing sexual violence in Ireland. It is extremely important to me and to the Government that policy is driven by accurate, up to date, reliable data. Knowledge and information are essential to making effective policies to prevent and combat sexual violence.


The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report was a fundamental piece of research and its results had a significant impact, both at the time of its publication in 2002 and since.


Late last year, the Government decided that a scoping study should be undertaken to see just what the situation was in relation to data available for the development of policy in this particularly sensitive area and to assess if there were gaps in the data available for policy formulation. To this end, as the Senator may be aware, the Government agreed to establish a Scoping Group to consider the availability of data and make recommendations on a study to identify the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland today and emerging trends.  The Group was made up of experts and relevant Department officials and was chaired by Prof. Dorothy Watson, Associate Research Professor, ESRI and adjunct Professor of Sociology at TCD.


Presentations and submissions from key non-governmental organisations were made to the Group at its first meeting and subsequent submissions from representative groups were also made and presented to the Scoping Group for their consideration. In line with the Group's terms of reference and Work Plan, the Group’s academic members completed a paper on data points relevant to sexual violence. During this work, other relevant international surveys were reviewed and cross-referenced to identify gaps in the original data points and address those gaps by adding in new data points and variables not present in the SAVI study.  The Group considered this paper and it ultimately became a core element of the Group’s report.  The Group also considered survey methodology, ethical considerations, the feasibility of periodic data collection over time and data protection issues. The Group have since submitted their draft report to my Office for consideration.


This work is extremely complex and requires careful consideration of the sensitivities and practicalities involved. A further piece of technical work is being completed by my Department to enable me to bring proposals to Cabinet. I expect to be in a position to do this in a matter of weeks. Once the report has been considered by Government it will be possible to be more specific about its recommendations.