A man was aquitted of raping a 17-year-old girl after his lawyer argued the victim's lacey thong was evidence of consent, sparking protests across Ireland, where the case occurred.
“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” said Elizabeth O’Connell, lawyer for the 27-year-old defendant, according to The Independent. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
A jury of eight men and four women subsequently returned a unanimous not guilty verdict, according to The Irish Times.
Protestors gathered in the streets on Wednesday, days after the decision, according to the New York Times. Many in Dublin and Cork were seen holding underwear, representing an anti-victim culture they see as entrenched in the court system.
Mary Crilly, director of the Cork Sexual Violence Center, castigated the blame-the-victim argument.
“My issue isn’t just the barrister (lawyer); it’s the system that allows it,” she said. “It’s never [the victim's] fault. We’re allowing the perpetrators to get away.”
Ruth Coppinger, a member of the Irish Parliament, also brandished a thong in while giving a speech to her fellow lawmakers about the incident and the “routine victim-blaming going on in Irish courts."
“We felt it was necessary to make the point that it’s incongruous to have a thong shown in Parliament, and it’s incongruous for a woman in a rape trial to see it in court as well,” Coppinger said. “If we sit in Parliament quietly waiting for change to come, we won’t get it.”
Coppinger's demonstration was met with silence.
Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has since responded to the situation, claiming that it was “never the victim’s fault."
Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre told told the Irish Independent that the line of defense used by the lawyer is not uncommon.
“It comes up very, very regularly how someone was dressed, the amount of drink they had taken, why they hadn’t screamed if they were in trouble,” Blackwell said after the verdict. “These kind of mythologies and stereotypes around rape come up again and again in court cases, because the defense to rape is that the sex was consensual. So anything the defendant can do to suggest there was consent will be used."
A similar outcome to a similar case sparked outrage across the country in March of 2018. In what became known as The Belfast Trial, rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape despite testimony from a cab driver who saw the victim bloodied and crying, incriminating text messages shared between the two alleged attackers, and evidence presented by a medical doctor, according to The New York Times.
In August of 2018, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan appointed Tom O’Malley, a law lecturer at the National University of Ireland, to examine all aspects of sexual assault trials. The Law Reform Commission is also conducting an examination of Ireland’s legislation in the area of rape.
[Photo: Getty Images]
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