The rate of students reporting rape and sexual assault in Ireland’s major cities appears to increase around September and October as the academic year begins and students return to college, according to experts across the country.
Speaking to Trinity News, Director of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) Noeline Blackwell confirmed that DRCC has recently received reports of rape and other sexual assaults from students newly enrolled at college.
“Unfortunately, this is not a new trend,” said Blackwell. “Each year, around the start of the academic year, we will get some disclosures from very upset students.”
Recent reports have emerged that three students in Cork were raped since the college term began, while almost 50 instances of rape and sexual assault of students were disclosed in Galway in the last six months.
Mary Crilly, Director of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork (SVCC), explained that SVCC tends to see an increase in reports of sexual assault from young women around the time that University College Cork (UCC) and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) reopen after the summer period.
Two of the three raped Cork students have since dropped out of college after contacting SVCC to disclose the assaults.
In Galway, September and October are busy months for the Galway Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC), according to Executive Director Cathy Connolly. “We are always very busy when colleges come back. First years can be quite vulnerable, but you might not see the figures straight away.”
Connolly explained that the number of current reports likely falls short of the number of incidents, as many do not report an assault until months afterwards.
Speaking to Trinity News on the situation in Dublin, Blackwell echoed Connolly’s assessment. “Our experience tends to be that while some people will report very quickly, it will take others days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years before they are able to make the disclosure so the level of reports to us is not a reliable indicator of the level of sexual assaults that happen.”
70% of women have experienced sexual hostility or crude gender harassment by their third year of college, while over half of third year women students reported having been treated differently because of their sex at some point in their college experience, according to a report released by the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) in August.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President, Shane De Rís, told Trinity News that the report “strengthens the case that students need to be educated [in sexual consent] as early as possible”.
Consent workshops for first year students at Trinity Hall over the last two years have seen high turnouts, with College approving a €15,000 expansion of consent classes earlier this year. The expansion is set to bring consent workshops to societies and sports clubs on campus.