Off the fence
The ‘Rape Tape’ scandal is not going away. Or at least, it should not go away. Not until the gardaí caught joking about raping a woman in their custody are dealt with in a satisfactory manner.
Why? The answer to that question lies in a small article about a very big topic that was carried on the bottom of Page 6 of The Irish Times on Tuesday, April 5 – the day the newspaper first covered the Rape Tape story (on Page 3).
The article (‘Garda attitude to rape crucial’, by Tim O’Brien) reported on research that Rape Crisis Network Ireland said proved “the attitudes of gardaí can have a strong influence on whether the [rape] survivor stays within the legal framework.”
The research showed that in 2009, just 38.4 per cent of survivors of adult sexual crimes attending rape crisis centres reported the crimes to the Gardaí. Considering the devastating impact of rape, this figure is far too low. However, the rate was at least an increase from 2006, when it languished at 19.2 per cent, less than one in five.
The Rape Crisis Network pointed out that “it is critical that [survivors] feel confident they will be treated with dignity and respect at every stage of their journey.”
Pause for a second and think about that. Dignity and respect. At every stage.
The most serious consequence of the taped comments is that the upward trend in reporting could be slowed, or even reversed.
Rape survivors could now be less likely to report the crime. Sure, they might be treated with dignity and respect while face-to-face with gardaí when reporting their ordeal, but they could now reasonably worry that once out of earshot, the gardaí could joke about the incident or snigger about them. Someone who has suffered a rape may find the possibility of such ridicule too much to bear. They could also fear that the gardaí may not treat the crime with the seriousness that it deserves.
How the state deals with the gardaí involved is therefore a matter of grave concern. Being a member of An Garda Síochána carries with it responsibilities far greater than most occupations. It is a position of trust. In order for An Garda Síochána to function effectively in its role of protecting the citizens of the state and enforcing criminal law, it is of the utmost importance that this trust must be upheld.
If the wagons circle and the gardaí involved are not made an example of, what is the National Police Service – what is the State – saying to its citizens?
As a nation we have already been forced to watch such ‘we’ll protect our own’-type wagon circling by the Church and by the banking industry and its government cronies. How many times must we have our faith in the institutions in which we trust trampled on?
I for one hope that An Garda Síochána shows that it is not infected with this rotten, self-serving attitude and demonstrates that it values our trust, that it understands the importance of public accountability. If it does not, I fear there will be no trustworthy state institutions left.