It is time to provide more support for women who have been raped
THE Cork rape trial this past week has thrown open a can of worms that many Irish people don’t want to look at, nevermind digest. The wearing of a thong ‘with a lace front’ was put forth in a Cork courtroom as evidential proof that the accuser, a girl of 17, was in some way inviting sexual advances.
This highlights, once again, how patriarchal and backwards our society is.
The Me Too movement has been embraced by women across the world, who, in recognizing the historic wrongs committed against females over recent decades, want to smash the doors down and expose the truth about where we’re at as a society.
The reality, as evidenced by numerous reports, including a SAVI report into sexual violence just commissioned last week which is likely to highlight the scale of sexual offenses in Ireland, is that the relationship men, especially, and women, have with sex, involving everything from consent to how it is prosecuted in court, needs to be discussed openly. Not confined to confession boxes or counselors offices.
The Cork case lead to numerous memes (social media images and texts) being shared around the country. One, in particular, caught me eye. It featured a pie chart with the usual color coded square boxes to the side indicating variables.
In a list under the heading Causes of Rape, featuring short skirts, drinking, flirty behaviour, a promiscuous past, walking alone, night time and rapists, the only corresponding colour in the chart was the rapists colour.
In the case heard in the courtroom in Cork, the defending barrister told the jury, ‘look at the way the girl was dressed’, referring to her thong.
If she was wearing a banana skin or a fig leaf it remains nobody’s business. Not the barristers, not the judges, definitely not some man.
In this particular case the accused was found not guilty. He was entitled to a fulsome defence and there can be no denying that he didn’t receive same.
As a court reporter I had the scarring experience of sitting through a sexual assault trial in which the defence barrister made some highly questionable suppositions about the assurer, in a bid to keep his client out of jail. I’ll never forget how pained and awkward she looked in the dock as the details of probably the worst day of her life were angled against her somehow.
The case has stuck with me, as has the Belfast rape trial, which I read about from afar.
The Irish rape trial system is far fairer but still has some way to go.
It is time to provide more supports for women who have been raped, otherwise the reporting rate will continue to languish at around 10 per cent, with conviction rates languishing in around the same shockingly low rate.
Ruth Coppinger TD holds up a thong in the Dáil in protest at ‘rape myths’.