A survey compiled by the Central Statistics Office has found that just over 50% of women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
The 52% figure for women contained in the Sexual Violence Survey 2022 compares with 28% for men, giving an overall figure of 40% for all adults.
‘Sexual violence’ is defined in this survey as a range of non-consensual experiences, from non-contact experiences to non-consensual sexual intercourse.
Overall, according to the CSO, younger people reported higher levels of sexual violence than older people.
Just over one-fifth of those aged 18-24 experienced sexual violence both as an adult and as a child, compared with 8% of those aged 65 and over.
The survey shows that four times more women (21%) than men (5%) reported experiencing non-consensual sexual intercourse over their lifetime.
One in ten women (10%) experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse as an adult when they were unable to give consent.
Almost one in five men aged 25-34 experienced non-consensual sexual touching as an adult.
One in five adults experienced unwanted contact sexual violence as a child (20%), and a similar number experienced unwanted non-contact sexual violence (19%).
Almost four-fifths of the adults who experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime knew the perpetrator, with very little difference between women (79%) and men (75%).
About half of adults who experienced sexual violence told someone about it, with disclosure more likely if the experience was with a non-partner-only (55%) than with a partner-only (16%).
Women who experienced sexual violence in their lifetime were more likely to have told someone (53%) compared with men (34%).
“The objective of the survey is to provide high-quality national prevalence data on sexual violence in Ireland, which will act as a new baseline for the levels of sexual violence in Ireland,” said CSO statistician Helen McGrath.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says the data provides an “insightful and comprehensive picture” of the extent and impact of sexual violence.
Its CEO Noeline Blackwell says the findings as “shocking”, adding that the figures made it more important than ever to acknowledge the harm done by sexual violence, and to continue to provide supports to victims and survivors.
Referring to the low level of reporting of sexual offences, she said that the DRCC was calling on the Minister for Justice and the Government to reform the justice system into one where those who were victims of sexual violence could report “in safety and confidence”.