Another day, another sad reminder of the state of the nation. This afternoon, the Gardaí Síochána Ombudsman Commission released its report on the so-called Corrib Rape-Tape. For anyone unfamiliar with the situation, two women were arrested while protesting at the Corrib Gas Project, the police in the car in front of them joked about deporting and raping one of them, the other guards laughed along, they accidentally recorded themselves and unwittingly gave the recording to the women. Chaos ensued. Read the transcript of their comments here.
Today’s report cleared all the guards of serious wrongdoing, but recommended that one be subject to (fairly mild) disciplinary action. Two have already been completely exonerated and the Sergeant who actually used the word rape has since resigned from the force so isn’t subject to disciplinary action.
The report emphasises that neither of the women were directly threatened with rape. Well, that’s a relief, eh? It wasn’t actually a threat of rape, it was just a joke among lads. It doesn’t matter that rape culture unquestionably causes rape to occur by suggesting to men that rape is sometimes acceptable. It doesn’t matter that research on sexual assault has found that potential rapists use rape jokes to gain affirmation for their actions, and laughter acts as that affirmation. It doesn’t matter that the entirety of the force is now less able to represent and support the victims of sexual assault. If the standard the police force holds itself to is avoiding direct threats of rape, then there’s something very wrong with the standards of the police force.
The Gardaí don’t seem to understand that. The Commission guaranteed that when victims of rape come forward they’ll be treated with compassion and sensitivity. Yet that has to take place in a culture of compassion and sensitivity. The guards should be considering all those who are already too afraid or too ashamed to come forward because of the culture we’ve built around rape. Because they feel they won’t be believed, or the process of reporting will be too traumatic, or their experience will be acknowledged but minimised.
The police should offer a safe space to the victims of crime, particularly such a traumatic one. The country has been given solid evidence that within the Gardaí rape is quite literally a laughing matter. Further, we have been given evidence that the dangerous norms surrounding rape extend to those responsible for our protection. In failing to recognise the severity of the Corrib-gate comments the Guards have failed us all as potential victims, and created a problem far larger than they seem to recognise. I don’t feel I can trust the Gardaí regarding sexual assault and so I don’t feel as safe. I assume I’m not alone in that.
To finish, the report actually includes this sentence:
“All four confirmed that the use of the word “rape” during this conversation was, at every stage, by their Sergeant and that it is his voice that can be heard on the recording talking of raping the females”.
Seriously? “Raping the females?”