It is time to pro­vide more sup­port for women who have been raped

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - [email protected]­ple­

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’.

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