Women are still deterred from reporting violence

Tens of millions of people across the globe have been following the unfolding story of the allegations of sexual assault against US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Two women, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, it is reported, are set to testify on Thursday before the US Senate Judiciary Committee to address their allegations, and to be given, what we hope will be, a fair hearing.

This whole case is unsettling. Not just because of the sordid details of humiliation, hurt, long-held trauma and inequality that underpin the stories that the women have told, but because the dominant establishment response to both the accusations and the accusers is to immediately dismiss, minimise, scathe and undermine.

It is incredible, it would seem, that a man of such high reputation, who is a Supreme Court nominee, could possibly engage in such predatory, debasing behaviour. One year after the re-emergence of the #MeToo movement, what this high-profile case is telling us loud and clear is that the default response of dominant power structures like politics is still a resounding “believe the man”.

It is perhaps the inevitability of this response that is most unsettling. It highlights a statement made by an Irish woman interviewed for a soon-to-be-published piece of research carried out by Safe Ireland estimating the cost of domestic violence. She said, in a very matter-of-fact way, that, “Women suffer from the man; then they suffer from the system.”

This statement is searing in its truth and simplicity. It is what Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez are experiencing now in a very public forum. But it is also what survivors of gender-based violence here in Ireland are experiencing every day, silently, away from the glare of notoriety.

All you hear all along is you will get your day in court. No you don’t. You get five minutes to be abused further. It’s nothing else

In 2014, research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) said that one in three Irish women reported some type of psychological violence by a partner since the age of 15. One in four reported some form of physical and sexual violence by a partner or non-partner since the age of 15. This same research said that a massive 79 per cent of Irish women never reported a serious physical or sexual assault by a partner to the police.

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