LIMERICK has seen its highest number of arrests on record for sexual and aggravated sexual assaults this year.
The county ranked second nationally in Garda figures for arrests relating to these crimes in the first six months of 2022. Waterford, with a figure of 28, was the only city with a higher arrest rate for sexual assaults across all Garda divisions.
Figures released by An Garda Síochána indicate that 20 arrests were made in Limerick in the first half of this year — the largest six-month period in the county in the 10 years of arrest logs released.
Sixteen of the 28 Garda divisions had less than 10 arrests in the same six-month period. In 2021, Limerick recorded 18 arrests for sexual assault in the entire 12-month period.
Local Aontú campaigner Eric Nelligan has said the huge jump in sexual assaults and aggravated sexual assaults is very concerning for the people of Limerick.
“In many instances, parents are scared stiff when their child goes on a night out and isn’t at home at the expected time. Over the past decade the annual number of sexual assaults in County Limerick was between the high-teens and mid-twenties. But, for some reason, this year it has jumped to 20 for the first six months of the year,” Mr Nelligan told the Limerick Post.
The Government recently launched ‘Zero Tolerance’, the third national strategy on domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence. Mr Nelligan hopes that this plan, with a focus on prevention and ensuring victims are better supported, will see a significant drop in these types of crimes.
“The figure of 20 arrests for sexual assault for 2022 is not a true reflection of the scale of the problem. How many people are not reporting the assaults? How many reports are not resulting in an arrest? These figures are unknown.
“A system needs to be developed that will make it easier for victims to come forward and report any untoward sexual activity. It is important that all efforts possible are made to encourage people to reach out to the Rape Crisis Midwest centre and Gardaí if they have been a victim of a sexual assault,” he insisted.
Rape Crisis Midwest revealed that it has seen the numbers of people accessing their services consistently increase year on year.
“I would think that increased awareness of the issue of sexual violence — there have been a number of high profile cases — may well have led to increased reporting of these crimes to Gardaí,” Executive Director of Rape Crisis Midwest, Miriam Duffy explained to the Limerick Post.
“Also the Garda Protective Services Unit, which are teams of Gardaí specifically trained to work with victims of rape and sexual assault, will have impacted on numbers.
“Anecdotally, clients of ours who have reported to these teams have felt very supported by them.”
Rape Crisis Midwest also says it has been approached by a number of Limerick pubs looking to make their staff aware of what to look out for and will be delivering training this autumn.
“The launch of the National Strategy has encouraged many people to start the conversation about how we hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account as a society,” Ms Duffy concluded.