Home > The role of alcohol in rape cases in Ireland.

Connolly, Johnny (2013) The role of alcohol in rape cases in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 44, Winter 2012, p. 10.

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 A Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI)1 submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality reported on the issue of ‘Gratuitous violence arising from alcohol and substance abuse’.2 The submission states that there is ‘little evidence to indicate that better recognised drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB are used with regularity to facilitate rape (whereas) the high involvement of alcohol in Irish rape cases, including rape involving victims who were too intoxicated to consent, suggests that alcohol is a very common drug used to facilitate rape’ (p.3). 

The submission cites Rape and justice in Ireland (RAJI), a study published in 2009 that identified a high level of alcohol involvement in reported and/or prosecuted rape.3 Acknowledging that alcohol involvement in rape is not unique to Ireland, the submission states that ‘the levels of binge drinking [in Ireland] on the occasion of the rape are extraordinarily high compared to European and North American states’ (p.3). Data cited from the RAJI study include the following:
Ø      45% of complainants and 40% of suspects of reported rape between 2000 and 2005 in Ireland had been binge drinking on the occasion of the rape.
Ø      Of those on trial for rape whose alcohol consumption was known, nearly 90% of defendants had been binge drinking.
Ø       As many as 10% of all reported rape cases in Ireland involved a complainant who was incapable of offering consent due to alcohol consumption. (p.3)
According to the submission, young people appear to be particularly at risk, with half of all reported rapes in Ireland between 2000 and 2005 involving a victim under 25, and 33% of those accused of rape in the same period being under 25 (p.3).
The submission argues that the widespread societal acceptance of alcohol consumption in Ireland diminishes recognition of alcohol as a potential date-rape drug. The submission cites one study where mock jurors normalised the use of alcohol in socio-sexual interaction, even where alcohol was administered surreptitiously. However, the same study found that when alcohol was replaced with a more commonly recognised date-rape drug such as GHB or Rohypnol, such behaviour elicited a ‘strong recognition of rape from participants’ (p.4).
Applying the lessons from this research to the Irish context, the RCNI submission suggests that in Ireland the tolerance for the use of alcohol to facilitate sexual interaction diminishes the perceived ‘seriousness of sexual violence facilitated by alcohol and the culpability of perpetrators of sexual assaults and rapes against intoxicated victims’ (p.4). Although there is no research in Ireland on jury deliberation in rape cases, citing the findings of international research that juries are more likely to assign blame to intoxicated victims of rape, the submission suggests that ‘it is possible that victim alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in the low rate of rape conviction’ in Ireland (p.4).
The RAJI study found that victims who had consumed alcohol at the time of the rape were likely to self-blame and that they were also likely not to report the rape, or to withdraw their complaint ‘due to expected negative reactions from services’ (p.5).
The RCNI submission makes a number of recommendations, including the following;
Ø Alcohol marketing should be controlled through legislation ‘in particular where it is targeted at young people and/or presents alcohol consumption as linked to sexual success’.
Ø Broad educational campaigns should target and dispel inaccurate alcohol expectancies in order to reduce aggressive sexual behaviour in men and facilitate better recognition of sexual disinterest and refusal. Such education programmes should also affirm that ‘alcohol consumption is never a justification for coercing or forcing sex on an unwilling partner’.
Ø ‘There is a need for mock-jury studies in Ireland to establish the extent to which victim-blaming attitudes influence jury decision making.’ (p.6)
The submission also strongly endorses the recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy with regard to reducing the supply of alcohol to young people.4 
1.     The RCNI is the representative, umbrella body for Rape Crisis Centres, which provide free advice, counselling and support for survivors of sexual abuse in Ireland. See www.rcni.ie
2.     Rape Crisis Network Ireland (2012) RCNI submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, on the issue of gratuitous violence arising from alcohol and substance abuse. Galway: Rape Crisis Network Ireland. www.rcni.ie/rcni-submissions.aspx
3.     Hanly C, Healy D and Scriver S (2009) Rape and justice in Ireland: a national study of survivor, prosecutor and court responses to rape. Dublin: The Liffey Press.
4.     Department of Health (2012) Steering Group report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. Dublin: Department of Health. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16908
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 44, Winter 2012
January 2013
Page Range
p. 10
Health Research Board
Issue 44, Winter 2012
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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