Minister Josepha Madigan has told the Dáil chamber that she is a survivor of sexual assault.
The Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion was speaking during statements on action to tackle sexual, domestic and gender-based violence.
"I am old enough to know that there are very few women my age that have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault and I know this because I am one of them," the Dublin Rathdown TD said.
"It won't come as a surprise to those of us of a similar age who have suffered this trauma. And sometimes we have suffered it more than once. It was, and is, a lot more common than many believe.
"Most victims do not report their crimes. I always takes statistics that I read with a pinch of salt. It is important to say that not all abuse is continuous. There can be isolated incidents that can be just as damaging.
"No doubt there is someone watching this speech, somewhere near to you at this very moment, where some form of sexual violation is taking place."
Josepha Madigan has told the Dáil that she was sexually assaulted. The Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion was speaking during statements on action to tackle sexual, domestic and gender-based violence. | Read: https://t.co/zLwUvTVrRR pic.twitter.com/d5007XAfFr— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 6, 2021
Calling for support for men who face sexual violence, the minister noted that it is "much more prevalent an issue for women".
Pointing to rising numbers of women seeking support for domestic violence and sexual assault, Minister Madigan said: "The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and our shared humanity.
"The scary part about sexual assault in particular, is that it is not always the random monster in the middle of the night, but often a friend, or a spouse or an acquaintance or someone you know. It is a corrosive blight on female safety and morale."
To convey the damage sexual assault causes, she quoted four "powerfully tragic lines" from the Eurythmics song, Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four): "And so I face the wall. Turn my back against it all. How I wish I'd been unborn. Wish I wasn't living here."
She paid tribute to the "remarkable, talented, strong women" with whom she is surrounded.
The Fine Gael politician said that while the 36 women TDs and 18 Senators may disagree on various issues, all are part of "the unfinished democracy that is Ireland when it comes to the representation and treatment of women".
The minister said she awaits a response from party leaders - including the Taoiseach - to her correspondence on the establishment of a special Oireachtas committee, following the recommendations of the Citizen's Assembly for constitutional reforms to further gender equality.
A full debate should be held on the matter, she said.
In a tweet, Aontú leader Peadar Toibín welcomed the minister's "courageous and sincere speech".
MEP and former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald tweeted: "It takes great courage to share such a personal story."