THE head of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre has taken issue with people warning women to be careful at night rather than focusing on the perpetrators of sex attacks.
Mary Crilly was speaking after two seemingly random attacks on women in Cork City in the space of three weeks.
"After reports like these, there's an outpouring of 'women should be careful'. Women are already vigilant. We need to look at the men's behaviour in all of this," she told The Echo.
She also said that many survivors of sexual assault blame themselves.
"They might think if I hadn't walked home, if I hadn't drank, I would have been fine. But it is never their fault," she said,
Ms Crilly says that people who have been sexually assaulted should tell someone what happened, and also get medically examined.
She said women might even begin to doubt themselves.
"They might start thinking 'was I really raped?' or 'maybe I did consent'."
The Cork Sexual Violence Centre accepts people of all ages and genders. Survivors can also bring a friend for support. To avail of the services, the abuse does not have to be recent or reported to the Gardaí.
The centre provides advice, counselling, accompaniment to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit and can help prepare Victim Impact Reports. All services are free.
"The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. You might get over the fright or trauma, but if you keep blaming yourself, or feel ashamed, it is hard to let go," Ms Crilly said.
"It is not possible for it to be the survivor's fault," she added.
Ms Crilly went on to say rape is a crime about power and control, but when it happens to young women, for some reason society tends to victim-blame.
"If it was an elderly lady, or a straight man who was raped, immediately the reaction is 'that was wrong'. But if it is a woman, suddenly there are questions about whether she was asking for it. We need to get away from this mentality."
The age profile of people attending the Cork Sexual Violence Centre is varied.
"We see people aged 14 and up. We would mainly see women aged 18 and on into the 20s. We do see men also. Most of these men are dealing with childhood abuse, although some have been raped [recently]."
:: The centre's helpline is 1800 496 496, and is located at 5 Camden PIace in Shandon.
If you have been affected by the contents of this article, the Rape Crisis Centre operates a 24-hour national helpline on 1800 77 8888.