Martin Cullen says he thought carefully before describing defamatory media coverage of him after he was wrongly accused of having an affair with a Waterford businesswoman as "like waking up every morning and being raped".

It was unfortunate, therefore, that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism eventually decided to go ahead and describe his treatment at the hands of the media as akin to a violent sexual crime that has devastating physical and mental consequences for the victim.

It shows a man who does not understand the reality of rape, despite so much recent debate about it following the ordeal of the young victim in Listowel, the Murphy and Ryan reports and the work done by the Rape Crisis Centre to highlight the trauma rape causes.

Victims may feel justified in asking if it is any wonder that, when the real meaning of the word rape is used so often inappropriately, the crime of rape is so poorly handled within the criminal justice system.

That said, there should be a lot of sympathy for Minister Cullen for the impact those defamatory stories had on his young family. Any teacher who humiliates a young girl over the real or unfounded actions of a parent, as the minister claims his daughter's teacher did, needs to be disciplined strongly. Bullying also needs to be stamped out and no child should have to move schools three times before it is tackled. His description of his colleagues who worried about their own careers more than his personal wellbeing says little about the collegiality and friendships within politics. And, of course, the media has huge lessons to take on board from this case. A free and independent press needs to act with responsibility when writing about sensitive issues. It should be recognised that those papers that published the claims have already paid heavily for their defamation of Monica Leech.

The minister says he feels wounded by these stories and their effects. But while he chose a specific phrase to focus attention on how badly he feels, his case would have been all the stronger for not using it.