We don’t need an independent inquiry to tell us this practice is abhorrent

The Defence Minister must immediately act to amend the law so that victims of rape or sexual assault in the defence forces can no longer by cross-examined by their abusers, according to Social Democrats Defence Spokesperson Gary Gannon.

“The harrowing revelations of the Women of Honour have shone a spotlight on the toxic culture of sexual abuse and bullying that exists in the defence forces. I welcome the apology of Defence Minister Simon Coveney, to the female members of the defence forces who suffered abuse and harassment over three decades, and his commitment to establish an independent inquiry.

“However, the Minister should take immediate action to ensure that women, who make accusations of rape or sexual assault, can no longer be cross-examined by their alleged attackers when these complaints are investigated internally by military police.

“On Monday, RTE journalist Katie Hannon revealed that one woman, who had been raped by an officer, was forced to live in the same barracks her attacker while her complaint was investigated by the defence forces. Ultimately during a military court proceeding, she had to endure being cross-examined by this man.

“We don’t need an independent inquiry to tell us that this practice is abhorrent. Victims in civilian court proceedings cannot be cross-examined by their attackers. The law was changed, with the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, to ensure this couldn’t happen as the State recognised it was wrong.

“However, the Defence Act was not simultaneously amended to ensure that this safeguard was extended to members of the defence forces, whose complaints of sexual abuse are internally investigated by the defence forces.

“The Minister should immediately bring forward legislation to remedy this wrong. There is no excuse for any further delay.”

29 September, 2021


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