By Prarthana Mitra
A case of victim blaming in court that led to the acquittal of an alleged rapist in Ireland has led to public outrage in the country and vocal protests on social media.
After a defence lawyer cited the lacy underwear worn by a woman as a sign of her consent in the closing argument of a rape trial, women across the country and abroad started sharing pictures of their underwear on social media with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.
Clothing is not consent
Asking the jury to consider the underwear worn by the 17-year-old woman at the time she was raped in a muddy alleyway by a 27-year-old man, the lawyer held up the victim’s thong and asked, “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” according to the Irish Times. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
Following this incident, an Irish lawmaker held up a thong in the lower house of the parliament to highlight the routine and blatant victim shaming, and the lack of accountability for perpetrators of sexual crimes in Ireland’s judicial system. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar eventually responded, saying it was “never the victim’s fault,” regardless of the setting or other factors like clothing.
— Beth Mohen (@BethMohen) November 16, 2018
Hundreds of women and men led vehement protests in at least five cities across the country including Cork, Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and Belfast, with posters and lace underwear in hand. Soon afterwards, women put up thongs on their clothes lines, laid down lingerie on the steps of the courthouse, and put up pictures of underwear on social media, claiming that wearing thongs, or any other kind of underwear, does not mean consent.
Hundreds march through #Cork city to the courthouse where a 17-year old’s underwear was used by the defence barrister when addressing the jury in a rape trial #thisisnotconsent pic.twitter.com/4yqGcW6XPG
— Fiona Corcoran (@fiona96fmnews) November 14, 2018
Viral campaign gives vent to frustration
Susan Dillon, who founded the “I Believe Her – Ireland” [sic] Twitter account that came up with the viral hashtag, told CNN, “We had hoped that as a society we had moved on from these archaic, victim-blaming rape myths.”
Counsel for man acquitted of rape suggested jurors should reflect on underwear worn by the 17yo complainant. Following this wholly unacceptable comment, we are calling on our followers to post a picture of their thongs/knickers to support her with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent pic.twitter.com/ZkVU0GVAIN
— I Believe Her – Ireland (@ibelieveher_ire) November 10, 2018
It is unacceptable for a court of law to allow for reflection on the complainant’s choice of underwear, which is what called for this offline and online protest against the trial outcome. The viral campaign has invited support from women all over the world to drive home the fact that clothing neither expresses interest or consent, and cannot be used as a justification or invitation for rape.
A women’s clothing does not make rape ok and for a female lawyer to use that as an excuse for someone to get away with it makes me sick, be interesting to see what's in her knicker draw #ThisIsNotConsent pic.twitter.com/E43H1I0FH7
— Shelley (@shelleywells82) November 16, 2018
“My issue isn’t just the barrister; it’s the system that allows it,” said Mary Crilly, director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre and one of the speakers at the protests.
Protests demanding a major overhaul of the legal system which lets perpetrators get away are underway, within Ireland.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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