About Us

The obligations of the State to those who have suffered a violent sexual crime that strikes at the whole concept of human rights and bodily integrity are much wider than simply working for the conviction of a perpetrator.

Lord Justice Gillen

About us

Welcome to our Network

Over the past few years there has been increased attention to criminal justice responses to sexual violence across the island of Ireland. Following the high profile Rugby Rape Trial in Northern Ireland in 2018, an independent review into the investigation and prosecution of serious sexual offences was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice (DoJ): the Gillen Review (2019). The recommendations contained in the Gillen Review are now being taken forward by the Gillen Review Implementation Team within the DoJ. In the Republic of Ireland, a review into Consent in Rape Law was completed in 2019 and a Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences was published in 2020. The plan setting out how the recommendations for reform included in this report will be implemented are contained in the Department of Justice Strategy, Supporting a Victim’s Journey (2020). 

Criminal justice, however, is just one of a variety of avenues for addressing and responding to sexual violence. Indeed, the perpetration and prevalance of sexual violence, as well as the attitudes and responses to such violence are deeply influenced by the social and cultural contexts within which they manifest. In light of this, the All-Ireland Network on Sexual Violence Research seeks to create a space for interdisciplinary dialogue and debate amongst scholars, practitioners and policy makers working in this important area to develop new insights and understandings as we all work together to create safer and more responsive societies. 

Our team

Dr Eithne Dowds

Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Eithne Dowds is a Senior Lecturer in the Law School at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research focuses on the legal construction of the crime of rape, with a particular focus on formulations of sexual consent, in international and domestic criminal law. Her monograph, Feminist Engagement with International Criminal Law (Hart 2019) explored the relationship between consent and coercion as elements of the crime of rape. More recently, her work has focused on the trend towards the adoption of affirmative notions of consent, as well as legal framings of the accused’s mindset in respect of consent. Eithne has responded to a range of consultations including those addressed to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. Eithne’s work on consent has been cited in the Gillen Review on the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences in Northern Ireland. She is a member of the Legal Expert Council for the Conversations on Consent (CoC) Campaign and also has an interest in the law and procedure surrounding the prosecution of sexual offences more generally, co-editing a collection of papers on reform efforts in the context of Northern Ireland (Killean, Dowds and McAlinden, Sexual Offences on Trial, 2021).

Keywords: rape, consent, coercion, sexual offences, law reform


Dr Susan Leahy

University of Limerick

Susan Leahy is a senior lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Limerick. Susan’s primary research interests lie in the areas of criminal justice (with particular emphasis on sexual violence and victims of crime) and family law (specifically domestic abuse and marriage). She has published her research on sexual offences, victims’ rights and family law in both national and international journals including the Common Law World Review, the International Journal of Evidence and Proof, the Journal of Criminal Law, and the Child and Family Law Quarterly. She has co-authored two books: Sexual Offending in Ireland: Laws, Procedures and Punishment, (Clarus, 2018) (with Dr Margaret Fitzgerald-O’Reilly) and The Victim in the Irish Criminal Process (Manchester University Press, 2018) (with Prof Shane Kilcommins, Dr Kathleen Moore-Walsh and Dr Eimear Spain). Susan has completed a number of funded research projects on sexual offences, gender-based violence and victims of crime. Her funded research includes a 2021 report, The Realities of Irish Rape Trials: Perspectives from Practice, which was funded by the Irish Research Council and conducted in partnership with Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. This research involved interviews with Irish legal professionals and court accompaniment workers who work within Irish rape trials. She is currently working on Irish Research Council funded project with Sexual Violence Centre Cork which focuses on media reporting on sexual offences, seeking to draft guidelines for reporting on these cases in Ireland.

Key words: law reform; consent; social attitudes; evidence; trial process