Police in Ireland have reportedly asked the family of a woman who was the victim of a sexual assault by four men she believes to be foreign nationals to take down a social media post regarding the attack.
Gardaí (the Irish police force) in the southeast coastal town of Dungarvan have confirmed they are investigating an alleged assault reported to have taken place in the early hours of Sunday, Feb. 19.
The police noted there has been “commentary on social media in relation to the incident,” but insisted that as an ongoing investigation is underway, no further information will be released at this time.
As reported by the Irish news outlet, Gript, a request was made to close friends and family of the alleged victim not to share information about the attack that identifies the attackers as foreign nationals.
One such post published on Facebook by someone close to the victim claimed a woman was walking home from the local pub when she was allegedly dragged into an alleyway by four foreign adult men.
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The men reportedly ripped her pants off and pulled her underwear down to her ankles with the intent of raping her, the post read. An elderly woman from a residential building nearby heard the victim screaming and reportedly approached the men, prompting them to assault the witness before fleeing the scene.
This account of the attack has not been corroborated by Irish authorities.
One of the victim’s family members told Gript they had been asked to take down the social media post, which identified the attackers as foreign nationals. They say they only made the post because the authorities had not made any arrests and they believe women need to know about the incident for their own safety.
“We were asked by the Gardai why we said it was foreign men and then asked to take the post down. Then we were asked not to talk about what had happened to anyone,” one family member told the news site.
“It seems all wrong, who is being protected here? (The victim) can’t sleep or eat, she is totally traumatized. Normally if there’s a serious crime anywhere it’s on the radio and descriptions are given and there’s an appeal for witnesses. But we’re being told to say nothing,” they added.
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A local Sinn Féin politician, Cllr. Conor McGuinness, has since told Irish media he has engaged with police over the reported incident, and an investigation is underway, requesting that “every necessary resource is made available” to ascertain the individuals involved.
In a post on social media, Cllr. McGuinness urged members of the public to refrain from discussing the incident.
“It’s not right that people would be unsafe walking home at night, or at any time. We must all stand against sexual and gender-based violence. When women come forward to report an attack they should be taken seriously. We have a terrible history in this country when it comes to victim-blaming and to treating perpetrators with impunity,” he wrote.
“I will not be making further comment or discussing specifics of this case. I would ask that others do the same,” he added.