TAOISEACH Micheál Martin is set to meet with the heads of two local charities in relation to disturbing sexual abuse affecting Cork’s homeless community.
Mary Crilly, from Cork’s Sexual Violence Centre, and Caitríona Twomey, head of Cork Penny Dinners, will discuss strategies to combat the crisis with Mr Martin after several pleas from homeless men and women traumatised by sexual assaults.
Lavinia Kerwick, the first rape survivor in Ireland to waive her anonymity after her abuser received a suspended sentence, will be joining Ms Crilly and Ms Twomey to meet with the Taoiseach and assist in the fight against sexual abuse in the homeless community.
The news comes just days after a Cork man was convicted of sexually assaulting the homeless woman he shared a tent with.
Ms Twomey recalled with gruesome clarity how she was forced to physically remove a man from an unconscious homeless woman in a previous article published in The Echo.
The former Cork Person of the Month detailed how, in this and a similar incident, both of the perpetrators were also homeless and had been known to their victims.
She said the charity is seeing the effects of sexual assaults first hand from a number of clients who visit Cork Penny Dinners to eat.
The meeting with Mr Martin is set to take place in the coming weeks.
Ms Twomey said strategies implemented for homeless men and women at risk of sexual assault need to go beyond awareness-raising.
She applauded the latest woman who brought her attacker to justice.
However, she added that even these inspiring stories won’t give those already in danger any hope or confidence.
“Victims won’t get any hope or confidence until they see their plight is taken seriously,” she said.
“There is so much helplessness in the homeless community when it comes to reporting these assaults. This is affecting both men and women.
“We hope that Micheál Martin will take our initiative on board and that we can all work together. This is gone beyond raising awareness now. We need solutions and we need them in place quickly.
“A victim is a victim but homeless men and women have to take their own safety into consideration as there is nowhere to hide on the streets. It means they are easy prey again.”
Ms Twomey said that the fear among sexual assault victims living on the streets is rising.
“The person can’t go forward because they are genuinely afraid of being beaten just for opening their mouth. There is nowhere to go where they can lock the door behind them.
“It’s a very cruel act in any context. We don’t want to see sexual violence in any community. This is wrong on all fronts.”
Ms Twomey praised the decision of Ms Kerwick to help them in their battle to end sexual assault.
“I have confidence that we know what we are talking about and that we have solutions. We are very solid and we are on the side of the victims.
“We are really grateful to have Lavinia Kerwick on board because she has been dealing with this issue for so many years and knows the effect it can have on a person firsthand.”