Minister Flanagan launches major national awareness campaign on sexual harassment and sexual violence



9 May 2019


The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, today launched a major national awareness campaign on sexual harassment and sexual violence. ‘No Excuses’ is a high impact media campaign to reach a national audience featuring TV, cinema, radio, outdoor, social and digital advertising.


The campaign will run for three years up to 2021 with initial TV ads broadcasting from tomorrow, Friday 10 May. The initial ads feature both male and female perpetrators and victims. They cover a number of scenarios ranging from sexual harassment in the workplace, unwanted physical attention at a bar, and an attempt to expose someone in a locker room, to an attempt to coerce a partner into unwanted sexual activity and finally an attempt to prey on someone not in a position to give consent.


Minister Flanagan said: “Research has shown that Ireland suffers from disturbingly high levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence. These ads highlight and help people recognise these behaviours and the many precursors to them. They call on us to reflect on our own reactions and to stop excusing sexual harassment and sexual violence. I hope that they will help all of us to hold such behaviours and their precursors totally unacceptable with the ultimate goal of reducing and preventing the incidences of sexual harassment and sexual violence, which affect the lives of too many people in our society both directly and indirectly.”


On 8 March 2019, International Women’s Day, WIN International published statistics as part of the 2018 WIN World Survey ranking 40 countries on gender equality, sexual harassment and violence. The Irish research was carried out by Red C research. The survey reported that Ireland has the highest level of claimed sexual harassment in Europe with 32% of Irish women between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last 12 months.  That was the highest level in Europe, and the second highest out of all 40 countries surveyed. Only Mexico fared worse.


Reported sexual offences are also increasing. Last year, 3,182 sex crimes were recorded by Gardaí, a 26% increase on 2017. While some of this may be attributable to an increased willingness to report crimes, which should be welcomed, the reported figure still only shows a fraction of the total prevalence of these crimes as it is generally accepted that sex crimes are chronically under-reported.  


The Minister added: “The aim of this campaign is to make the public question our responses to a range of sexual harassment and potential sexual violence scenarios which are endemic in society, to consider the extent to which we excuse or ‘explain away’ incidents when we see them, and to ask us to stop excusing them if we do. We want the campaign to provoke us all to ask: ‘Just what is our attitude to sexual harassment and sexual violence? Are we tolerating it? Are we excusing it?’ And if we are, even if we are doing so only at the lower stages, are we facilitating a culture in which it is really hard for victims to be heard, to be helped, to be supported.”


The campaign is being run by Cosc – the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, which is part of the Department of Justice and Equality. The campaign is part of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021. ‘No Excuses’ follows the domestic violence awareness campaign ‘whatwouldyoudo?’ which ran for three years from 2016 to 2018.


Funding of €950,000 has been secured to run the campaign in 2019. In addition, funding of €171,000 has been awarded under the Dormant Accounts Fund to localise the campaign message. It is intended, subject to the necessary funding being made available, that the campaign will continue and evolve for 3 years up to 2021.


The ads also direct viewers to the campaign website The website provides further information as well as advice on how to help in such situations.




Notes to Editors:


Videos available for streaming

The initial TV ads being used in this campaign can be viewed at (initial launch ad ‘Does Ireland have a problem?’ to air from Friday to Sunday) and (Main ad ‘Let’s stop excusing’ which will run from Monday onwards). These ads will be live on YouTube from approximately 10.30am this morning.


Media organisations are welcome to stream this material to accompany any articles which they may wish to write on the campaign.


Intervention in cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence

It is recommended that bystanders and witnesses to a sexual harassment or sexual violence incident should only get involved if it is safe and legal to do so. Search the campaign website for information and advice.  If the situation is already violent or looks like escalating quickly, people should not intervene directly.  Call the Gardaí on 999.  The only effective assistance is non-violent.


Government steps to tackle sexual crime

The Government’s Second National Strategy on tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence 2016-2021 is the overall policy framework in tackling these issues. The Strategy involves a wide range of actions being taken by respective Government Departments and Agencies in a whole of Government response to addressing sexual violence. 


The national awareness campaign on domestic and sexual violence 2016-2021 is a key action of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021 and Action Plan which is available at Contracts were awarded following a rigorous EU tendering process for a national awareness campaign to the creative agency TBWA\Dublin and the media buying agency PHD.  The agencies are working with Cosc to develop and implement the campaign.


Strengthening laws

Our laws in supporting victims of crime have also been significantly reformed and strengthened in recent years. This includes the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 which provides new statutory rights for all victims of crime in Ireland. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 has introduced a statutory definition of consent and the recently enacted Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Act 2019  introduces presumptive minimum sentences for repeat sexual offences.


On 1 May 2019 Government approval to draft, on a priority basis, was secured for amendments to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017.


The Department of Justice and Equality had begun preliminary work on its own legislation in this area, following a report in 2016 by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety. However, the Government agreed to stop working on its own Bill and instead, accept Deputy Howlin’s Bill, which is based on the LRC’s recommendations.


The Bill provides for the main criminal law elements of the LRC Report and proposes new offences dealing with:

The Government amendments will also provide for a separate offence to deal with another image based offence, ‘upskirting’.


Garda Divisional Protective Service Units

Garda Divisional Protective Service Units (DPSUs) are being rolled out in all 28 policing divisions nationwide by An Garda Síochána. DPSUs will significantly improve services to victims (including children), by improving the investigation of sexual violence incidents, and identifying and managing risk.


In better supporting crime victims, Garda Victim Service Offices are also in place now in every Garda Division.


National Survey on Prevalence of Sexual Violence

The Government has also approved a significant new national survey approach to the collection of data, on the prevalence of sexual violence, by the CSO. This will greatly improve the evidence base for public policy making in this area in the future. In undertaking this large scale survey, the CSO will look in detail at the experience of women and men in Ireland of sexual violence and abuse, with repeat large scale surveys every decade.


This allows the State to undertake an ongoing programme of research of the highest quality in a sensitive and ethical way, to ensure a robust set of data to inform Government policy.  Funding of €150,000 has been made available for 2019 to allow CSO to carry out the requisite preliminary technical research. The Government has agreed in principle that, once detailed budgets can be devised by the CSO, following preparatory work, any necessary resources will be made available to ensure the survey takes place.


Review of Vulnerable Witnesses in the Legal Process

In 2018, the Minister initiated a review of the protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences. The review, which is chaired by Tom O’Malley, is concerned with the treatment of vulnerable witnesses in the legal process, from the reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings.


Work is well advanced on this review and the Minister looks forward to receiving the group’s recommendations.


Other initiatives

The Department of Health has led the Policy Review of Sexual Assault Treatment Units, which the Department of Justice and Equality participated in. The review’s report was recently launched by Minister Harris. The implementation of its recommendations will ensure an enhanced service is provided to the victims of sexual crime in attending the Treatment Units. 


A Framework document has recently been launched by Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor which sets out a framework for the Higher Education sector for promoting consent and preventing sexual violence.


In tandem with all of this work, significant financial resources continue to be made available by the State in addressing sexual violence. For example, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is allocating funding in 2019 of €25.3 million to Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services. This represents an increase of €4.9 million since 2015.