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What is the survey about?

The aim of this survey is to provide national prevalence figures on sexual violence in Ireland. The survey focused on respondents’ experiences of a broad spectrum of sexual violence and harassment experiences in their lifetime.

Why did the Central Statistics Office (CSO) run this survey?

In December 2017, at the request of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the CSO took part in a working group whose role was to consider the availability of data in relation to sexual abuse and to make recommendations regarding future requirements. The result was a consensus on the need for a comprehensive national survey on the prevalence of sexual abuse in Ireland. The CSO is Ireland’s national statistics office, and our purpose is to impartially collect, analyse and make available statistics about Ireland, our people and society. We collect data under the Statistics Act, 1993 to provide official statistics to inform decision-making across all aspects of Irish society. At European level these statistics provide an accurate picture of Ireland’s economic and social performance and enable comparisons between Ireland and other countries.

How do other countries conduct these types of surveys?

Each country has their own approach depending on the size, geography, digital literacy of the population, and the aim of the survey. Most surveys conducted internationally involve a personal or telephone interview and are based on some form of random sampling. Eurostat, the European Union statistical body, has developed a methodology manual for its EU survey on gender-based violence against women and other forms of inter-personal violence (EU-GBV) which details its advice for countries running a similar type of survey.

Is this new Sexual Violence Survey (SVS) a repeat of the previous Sexual Assault and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) survey from 2002?

No, the SVS results will establish a new baseline for the measurement of sexual violence prevalence in Ireland. SAVI and SVS used different methodologies and so it is not possible to compare the results from both. The SVS survey built upon the work of the 2018 Scoping Group on Sexual Violence Data reflecting changes in society since 2002, as well as changes in Data Protection.

Are there any helplines I can contact if I have been affected by publication of these results?

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this survey, help is available from the following national helplines or from local/regional helplines which you can find in the Background Notes:

  • National Sexual Violence Helpline (for men and women) - 1800 778 888 or
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline (for women) - 1800 341 900.
  • Male Advice Line (for men experiencing domestic abuse) - 1800 816 588.


What research and consultation have the CSO done in relation to developing this survey?

As Ireland's national statistical office, the CSO’s role is to support research and public policy by producing impartial and robust data reflecting Ireland’s economy, people and society.

There is a breadth and depth of statistical expertise in the CSO, but the CSO was also cognisant of the particularly sensitive nature of data on sexual violence and the unique challenges associated with its collection. As a result, the design phase of the survey included repeated stakeholder consultation, substantial questionnaire testing, and strong governance. In addition, the CSO identified best international practice and leveraged the expertise of colleagues in other National Statistical Institutes with experience in this area.

When was the survey conducted?

The main survey was run between May 2022 to December 2022. A large-scale pilot was also run in 2021 to test the methodology and the questionnaire. The findings from this were incorporated into the main survey design.

Who was asked to participate?

Participants were chosen at random from the population that were 18 years or older.

Could people volunteer to participate?

No. Participants were randomly selected from the population to complete the survey and they represented everybody else. Volunteers could not fill out the survey as it would have affected the statistical methodology behind the sampling process.

How did the CSO contact respondents?

Section 30 of the Statistics Act, 1993 provides the legal basis for the CSO to access the records of public authorities for statistical purposes. The CSO collects data for statistical purposes from a wide range of sources, including directly from survey respondents and from a wide range of Public Sector Bodies (PSBs). Data collected from PSBs is known as administrative data.

As a Census of Population typically happens only every five years, for this frame, the existing Census data (2016) was supplemented with more up-to-date administrative data. This work is enabled by linking administrative data to create a frame of persons in Ireland from which to draw the sample for the survey.

How did the CSO select the sample from the frame?

For this survey, a technique known as Stratified Random Sampling was used. Stratification ensures that each population group is represented accurately in the sample. The stratification was done by age, gender, and local authority area, meaning survey participants are correctly spread across all ages, sexes, and from around the country.

What kinds of questions were asked of respondents?

In order for the data to be robust, very explicit questions regarding behaviours associated with sexual violence had to be asked of respondents. As a result, the design and implementation of this survey required specialist expertise and training. It involved consultation with key stakeholders and consideration of best practice from international statistical organisations regarding appropriate collection methods as well as identification of the skills, training, and structures that were required to support data gathering in this sensitive area.

The questionnaire is available as part of the suite of documentation to support the dissemination of the survey.

What did the CSO do with the data collected?

We analyse the data and publish it by age group, gender, and county, and all data is anonymised. Nobody is identifiable from this data. We never share your data with any other agency or government department and once published we delete data that we no longer require.

What methodology did the CSO use to conduct this survey? / How was the data collected?

The main survey for SVS was a multi-mode survey with options for online (Computer Assisted Web Interview (CAWI)), self-completion interview (Computer Assisted Personal Interview/Computer Assisted Self-Interview (CAPI/CASI)), and a paper-based (Paper Assisted Personal Interview (PAPI)) form. The options were provided on a phased basis with CAWI being offered first, then CAPI/CASI, and finally PAPI.

How was confidentiality ensured?

All CSO staff are designated as Officers of Statistics under Section 20(a) of the Statistics Act, 1993.

The Act imposes strict confidentiality obligations on Officers, who sign and abide by a declaration of secrecy under Section 21 of the Act, are prohibited from disclosing information by Section 33(1) of the Act, and are subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1963. 

The work of all CSO staff is carried out subject to the Office’s Data Management Policy, as approved by the Office’s Confidentiality and Data Security Committee.

What about data protection?

As well as the strict legal protections set out in the Statistics Act, 1993, the CSO is obliged to ensure compliance with the data protection requirements set out in the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act, 2018. 

The Data Protection Transparency Notice for the survey can be accessed on our website.


What do you mean when you talk about “sexual violence”?

Sexual violence is defined in this survey as a range of non-consensual experiences, from non-contact experiences to non-consensual sexual intercourse. The word ‘violence’ as a term is sometimes associated with the use of force, but it also can mean “having a marked or powerful effect” on someone, which includes actions or words that are intended to hurt people, as outlined in the Luxembourg Guidelines (a set of guidelines to harmonise terms on childhood sexual violence and abuse). Sexual violence is any sexual act which takes places without freely given consent or where someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity. These experiences may range from a teenager making their friend watch a pornographic video on their phone, to someone being persuaded to undress or pose in a sexually suggestive way for photographs as a child, to a young woman being made to touch another person’s genitals without her consent, or a man being threatened to have sex. See the Background Notes for further details.

How did you come up with this definition?

The CSO has followed international best practice in using this definition, to enable the comparison between the Irish figures and other countries. In fact, the CSO has consulted widely with key stakeholders, a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and expert groups, (see Background Notes) as well examining best international practice as we developed the survey. This survey builds on all that knowledge base (for more on methodology see Background Notes).

Why is it called non-consensual sexual intercourse and not rape?

Non-consensual sexual intercourse is defined as sexual intercourse where the person was coerced, threatened or forced into having sex. While this may generally meet the definition of “rape”, the Office will refer to these experiences as “non-consensual sexual intercourse”, because this is how these were framed for respondents. This was done to ensure that the fullest range of sexual violence experiences which people may have encountered were captured. See Background Notes for further details.


What will be included as part of the publication phase?

Publication will be approached in different ways for different audiences.

A suite of six national publications that contain tables of information showing the main indicators broken down by demographic characteristics has been designed for the public, press and assorted media outlets. The needs of NGOs and state agencies will be met primarily though bespoke tabulations.

The research community require more detailed microdata to address their needs. Access to anonymised data, micro data research files and protocols for release of data will be undertaken under the Statistics Act, 1993 and will conform to the highest statistical standards as well as be consistent with the Data Protection Acts and/or GDPR. Access will be strictly limited. This is being planned for delivery in August 2023.

What are the publications and when will they be released?

The Sexual Violence Survey will be published as a series of publications over the course of summer 2023. While the final titles for the publications are to be agreed, they will concentrate on the following areas:

  • Main Results, 19 April 2023 

    This will include information, by sex and age, on overall prevalence level for lifetime adulthood and childhood experiences of sexual violence, by type of sexual violence experience (contact, non-contact, etc), as well as the overlap between child and adult sexual violence experiences. it will also include data on the relationship with the perpetrator and whether the person disclosed their experience of sexual violence to anyone (by adult and child experience).

  • Experiences of Sexual Violence in Adulthood, 09 May 2023 

    This will include information on partner and non-partner experiences as well as the frequency of experiences, who was involved, the duration of the experience and if non-partner experiences, the location of the sexual violence experience. It also will present on the detailed socio-demographic sexual violence experience (sexual violence by education, sexual orientation, nationality, etc).

  • Experiences of Sexual Violence in Childhood (no later than end June 2023) 

    This will include information on contact and non-contact experiences, as well as the frequency of experiences, who was involved, the duration and location of the experience and the respondent’s view on the reason why it stopped. It also will present on the detailed socio-demographic sexual violence experience (sexual violence by education, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.).

  • Disclosure of Sexual Violence Experiences (no later than end June 2023) 

    This will include information broken down by adult and childhood experiences as well as who was told, how long it took to do so, the reasons why the person disclosed or not, whether the person disclosed to the gardai and/or if they used any services, for example, medical, counselling, etc.

  • Sexual Harassment and Stalking (no later than end July 2023

    This will include information on sexual harassment and stalking events that occurred in the last 12 months. It will look at the type of harassment experienced, the frequency of the experience, who did it, and whether it was disclosed.

  • Attitudes to Sexual Violence (no later than end July 2023) 

    This will include information based on responses from those who did not disclose any experiences of sexual harassment or sexual violence in the survey. It will contain information on the opinion of the respondents who were not victims of sexual violence on several so-called “rape myths” surrounding sexual violence and the perception of the frequency of sexual violence in the community.

Further information:

Memorandum of Understanding between the CSO and the Department of Justice and Equality

Report of the Scoping Group on Sexual Violence Data

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this survey, help is available from the following national helplines or from local/regional helplines which you can find in the Background Notes:

  • National Sexual Violence Helpline (for men and women) - 1800 778 888 or or by email at
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline (for women) - 1800 341 900
  • Male Advice Line (for men experiencing domestic abuse) - 1800 816 588