The prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland is unknown. Incomplete evidence from crime statistics, previous research reports and service uptake figures is insufficient to understand the nature and extent of the problem and to plan and evaluate services and preventive interventions.
The main aim of the SAVI study was to estimate the prevalence of various forms of sexual violence among Irish women and men across the lifespan from childhood through adulthood. Additional aims of the study were to describe who had been abused, the perpetrators of abuse, the context in which abuse occurred and some psychological consequences of abuse; to describe the pattern of disclosure of such abuse to others, including professionals; to document public beliefs about and perceived prevalence of sexual violence; to assess public willingness to disclose abuse to others in the event of a future experience; to document particular challenges experienced in addressing sexual violence by marginalised groups; and to make recommendations for future developments in the areas of public awareness, prevention, service delivery and policy development.
METHOD A survey assessing the prevalence of sexual violence was conducted by anonymous telephone interviews with randomly selected participants from the general population in Ireland. They were interviewed at home in the period March to June 2001.
Many ethical and safety considerations were built into the study design to ensure that a high quality and sensitive approach was used. Interviewers were highly qualified and underwent additional training and regular supervision in the conduct of the interviews. A wide range of safety mechanisms were put in place to reassure participants about study authenticity and to provide them with access to professional services if required.
RESULTS Study Population Over 3,000 randomly selected Irish adults took part in the study (n = 3,118). This represented a 71 per cent participation rate of those invited. For a telephone survey, and on such a sensitive topic, this very high participation rate means that the findings can be taken as broadly representative of the general population in Ireland. The information available can therefore provide important and previously unavailable information on the extent and nature of sexual violence in Irish society.
McGee H, Garavan R, deBarra M, Byrne J, Conroy R. The SAVI Report. Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland. A national study of Irish experiences, beliefs and attitudes concerning sexual violence. Dublin: Liffey Press, 2002.