Radically different approach to sexual education needed now – Carroll MacNeill

19th November 2020 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

The only way to break the endemic sexual and gender-based violence in our country is with a comprehensive and new approach to relationship and sexual education, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was speaking today in the Dáil following reports of the non-consensual sharing of thousands of intimate images of girls and women online.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “We know the practice of publishing intimate images without consent is a major problem in Ireland today. The effect on the victim is one of complete powerlessness, of humiliation and indeed of permanence  to them and their perception of their reputation. It is an aggressive act, an assault on their person, even if there is no visible scar.

“In the last two years, 118 children have been referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Office for the dissemination of child abuse material. They didn’t necessarily realise they were committing an offence, but what is shows is at that early age, a worrying lack of concern for boundaries, for the sense of the personhood of the victim.

“It is that lack of boundaries, it is that sense of disregard for personhood that can form the seed for the sense that one is entitled to exert themselves on any other person.

“Sexual violence, gender violence and domestic abuse are the exertion of one person on another – whether by non-consensually publishing pictures of their intimate body or by forcing them to receive unwanted images. By controlling someone psychologically. By cutting them off from their family. By beating them and terrorising them and threating them.

“We’ve seen these acts for generations. We have new names for it yes – martial rape, coercive control, domestic abuse, and we have new technologies for its commission – phone stalking, image sharing and so on. But it is all rooted in that same sense of exertion and entitlement.

“The only way to break that exertion is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education. So that when I or anyone else drops their child to school, that we can look around at the children and hope that the challenges that faced us and face us still, have some chance of being interrupted, of being broken. Of being different for them.

“The response we need to end this endemic of sexual and gender violence is the education of our five years olds and beyond. Now. All of the other measures can only be sticking plasters, they will never address the injury.” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said

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