TEEN GIRL’S UNDERWEAR: Protests have erupted across Ireland over the issues of sexual consent and sexual assault victim blaming after a man was acquitted of raping a 17-year-old girl.
Last week, a jury unanimously found the 27-year-old accused not guilty of raping the teenager in county Cork, in the south of Ireland.
The issue of consent was at the core of the case. The Irish Examiner reported last week that the jury heard the complainant had accused the defendant of rape.
“You just raped me,” the complainant said immediately after the sexual incident, the court heard. “No, we just had sex,” the defendant replied. He also admitted he could not be sure whether they had full intercourse, as he could not get fully erect.
During the trial, defence lawyer Elizabeth O’Connell told the members of the jury that they had to consider the complainant’s attire before making their decision.
“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” she asked, according to the Irish Examiner. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
The remark attracted widespread criticism from campaigners and politicians alike.
On Tuesday, Solidarity-People Before Profit MP Ruth Coppinger produced a lace thong in the Dáil (the Irish parliament), to draw attention on what she described as “routine victim-blaming”.
Taking the underwear out of her sleeve and holding it up in front of fellow MPs, Coppinger said: “It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here […] how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?”
Coppinger then posted a picture of the underwear on Twitter, accompanied by the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.
“I hear cameras cut away from me when I displayed this underwear in #Dáil,” she wrote. “In courts victims can have their underwear passed around as evidence and it’s within the rules, hence need to display in Dáil. Join protests tomorrow. In Dublin it’s at Spire 1pm. #dubw #ThisIsNotConsent.”
The hashtag was used by Irish women to post photographs of their underwear in all shapes and colours to protest against arguments such as the one put forward by O’Connell to be used in court.
On Wednesday, protests are set to be held in Dublin, Cork and in the western city of Limerick and Waterford in the south-east.
Last week, the court heard the defendant said he and the complainant had been kissing on the night of the incident and “felt attracted to one another on the night.”
Tom Creed SC for the prosecution argued nobody had seen the two kissing, and the man the defendant named as a witness who could allegedly corroborate his version did not give evidence.
The defendant also denied he had grabbed the girl by the throat and said that “she was not crying at any stage.”
The defendant also contested the complainant’s claims that he had dragged her over 30 meters to the spot where the alleged rape took place. He added that he had stopped immediately after she had no longer seemed comfortable with him.
“[The complainant] was getting funny, it was like she snapped out of a buzz. She said stop and I stopped. We were going to have sex, she said stop and I stopped,” the court heard.
The jury of eight men and four women took approximately 90 minutes to reach its not guilty verdict and was then thanked by Justice Carmel Stewart.