Minister for Justice says that Ireland suffers from disturbingly high levels of sexual harassment 3 months ago

Minister for Justice says that Ireland suffers from disturbingly high levels of sexual harassment

In March this year, statistics on sexual harassment around the world were released by WIN International.

Irish women reported the highest level of sexual harassment in Europe with 32 percent of Irish women between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they had experienced some form of sexual harassment within the previous 12 months.

We asked our readers to tell us what were the biggest issues facing women in Ireland today and the most cited response was the experience of sexual intimidation, harassment and violence.

Dozens of women shared experiences of being intimidated by men, groped and even raped.

People Before Profit candidate Kellie Sweeney summed up the extent of the problem in her tweet, "every woman I know, knows another woman who has been raped."

Ms Sweeney also shared a recent experience of being sexually harassed by teenage boys while out with her children. Some women spoke of how being sexually harassed had forced them out of jobs and even confined them to their homes.

Many of the stories being shared made for distressing reading.

Some women tweeted that they were victim blamed or shamed after they shared their experiences. Others had the assaults against them minimised by family or friends.

Workplace harassment also featured, with women saying that they were propositioned by bosses or prospective bosses and in some cases sexually assaulted while at work.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan recently acknowledged the extent of sexual violence in Irish society.

He said:

"Research has shown that Ireland suffers from disturbingly high levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence."

In response, the Department of Justice have launched a major national awareness campaign on sexual harassment and sexual violence called "No excuses".

Minister Flanagan explained the aim of the campaign.

"It's to make the public question our responses to a range of sexual harassment and potential sexual violence scenarios which are endemic in society, to consider the extent to which we excuse or ‘explain away’ incidents when we see them, and to ask us to stop excusing them if we do."

"We want the campaign to provoke us all to ask: ‘Just what is our attitude to sexual harassment and sexual violence? Are we tolerating it? Are we excusing it?’ And if we are, even if we are doing so only at the lower stages, are we facilitating a culture in which it is really hard for victims to be heard, to be helped, to be supported".

Twitter user Jen Keane says that as well as stopping men from abusing we have a long way to go to undo the social conditioning that Irish women get "to not make a scene".

Jen shared a story of being approached by a strange man in a cafe.

"I was in town yesterday evening, having a quick bite to eat before a dance class. I was sitting alone, reading a book while I ate. When I sat down, an older guy sitting at an adjacent table said hi, and to be polite, I said hi back, then went back to my book."

As Jen was packing up her stuff to leave, the man approached her and asked if the food was nice. He then asked her name and extended his hand to shake hers. When she held out her hand he grabbed it and pulled her close and tried to kiss her.

"I shouldn't have let him shake my hand, but I guess also, I shouldn't have to worry that someone shaking my hand is going to physically force more contact immediately thereafter."

"I have over 10 years of martial arts training. I can take care of myself. But I have over 30 years of social conditioning to not make a scene. And it's clear which one of these won out yesterday. And even though I should just be annoyed at him, I'm disgusted at myself instead."

More information about the No Excuses campaign can be found here. If you find any of this content distressing, please contact the Rape Crisis Centre