THE head of Cork's Sexual Violence Centre revealed that the organisation is working with college students following serious sexual assaults including a "brutal rape".
Mary Crilly said that college students in Cork are still suffering at the hands of abusers despite Covid-19 restrictions being in place.
She added that many sexual abuse victims still come up against harmful misconceptions that women make these accusations after leaving pubs while intoxicated.
"This is the biggest myth that ever was," Ms Crilly said.
"The woman I'm talking about who was brutally raped didn't get assaulted at a house party. She was having coffee with a guy in the same apartment block. This was a cup of coffee with someone she felt safe with. She wasn't in a rush to go home because she felt happy there, but that's where it happened.
"The girls are still blamed. It's like they are expected to have known this was going to happen and somehow put themselves in harm's way. In any case, she should never have been raped."
She said that many people still have misconceptions about the circumstances surrounding sexual assault.
"They assume it's the girl coming out of the pubs that this happens to and that maybe they consented. During lockdown people were raped by those that they knew. They might not have been mixing in the months before that but it's still happening. Rape doesn't always happen after nights outs or at house parties. Very often the abuser is someone a woman is just having coffee with."
Ms Crilly added that a number of people still refuse to face up to the reality of sexual assaults.
"One guy had been caught raping a young woman after housemates walked in during the assault," she said.
"The girl said she felt like she had made a big deal of it. Abusers manipulate everyone around them. That guy had committed a criminal offence that he would probably commit again to someone else.
"However, he had everyone around him so manipulated and convinced them that this would ruin his life. He should have taken responsibility but as far as the others were concerned he had said sorry and that was enough. The girl said she felt like she had been making a big deal because of the reaction from her housemates."
According to Ms Crilly sexual assault victims are forced to feel like criminals.
"When the abuse is inflicted by a housemate that person has to face their rapist every day. There is no escape."
She pointed out that abusers don't normally consider their crimes as rape.
"They don't use the term rape in their heads. They'll brag about it in fact. The sad thing about these situations is that the victim is pinpointed and not the rapist. Instead, she will be pinpointed as the person who is lying and avoided at all costs. This is something we need to keep challenging."
The organisation is continuing to offer counselling for sexual abuse victims during the pandemic.
"The pandemic was a great tester of whether sexual abuse can still thrive in a restricted environment. The reality is that in a war or camp rape still continues. During lockdown, there was a lot of fear and loneliness that made people even more vulnerable. Nobody knew what this virus was or how it was going to affect those belonging to them but sexual assaults still happened."