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brave Minister Josepha Madigan tells Dáil she is survivor of sexual assault

She said incidents of sexual assault are a lot more common than “many believe” and that sexual and domestic violence “is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic”.

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Josepha Madigan

Josepha Madigan

Josepha Madigan

Minister Josepha Madigan has told the Dáil that she was a victim of sexual assault, and said there are “very few women” her age who haven’t been sexually abused. 

The 51-year-old, who is Minister of State with responsibility for special education, was speaking today during statements on action to tackle sexual, domestic and gender-based violence.

She said incidents of sexual assault are a lot more common than “many believe” and that sexual and domestic violence “is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic”.

"I am old enough to know that there are very few women my age that have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault in their respective lifetimes, and I know this because I am one of them," Ms Madigan said in the Dáil.

"It won't come as a surprise to those of us of a similar age who have suffered this trauma. And sometimes we have suffered it more than once. It was, and is, a lot more common than many believe."

The Dublin Rathdown TD said she always takes statistics “with a pinch of salt” as most victims do not report their crimes.

"There are many reasons for this,” she added. “Shame, the fear of judgment and a desire to forget are among the reasons.

"It is, as the Taoiseach said earlier, a form of hidden abuse. But, it is important to say that not all abuse is continuous. There can be isolated incidents that can be just as damaging either at home or outside the home.

"No doubt there is someone watching this speech, somewhere near to you at this very moment, where some form of sexual assault or violation is taking place."

Ms Madigan said the murder of Sarah Everard has highlighted “how vulnerable we can be as women”.

She added: “The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and our shared humanity.

"The scary part about sexual assault in particular, is that it is not always the random monster in the middle of the night, but often a friend, or a spouse or an acquaintance or someone you know. It is a corrosive blight on female safety and morale."

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Ms Madigan said that although the 36 women TDs and 18 Senators of the house may disagree in terms of ideology and policy, “on a completely personal and human level we will all agree on one thing - we are all very much a part of the unfinished democracy that is Ireland when it comes to the representation and treatment of women”.

She added: “How much we decide to share is purely a personal decision but I know I am surrounded in this House by remarkable, talented, and strong women who are all doing their best to bring about a fair and compassionate Ireland regardless of what challenges we may each have faced.”

The Fine Gael politician concluded that a full debate should be held on the matter and that she awaits a response from all party leaders, including the Taoiseach, on the establishment of a special Oireachtas committee for constitutional reforms to further gender equality.

Aontú leader Peadar Toibín tweeted that Ms Madigans speech was “courageous and sincere”.

MEP and former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “Josepha, well spoken. It takes great courage to share such a personal story.”

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