Women across Ireland are protesting how rape trials conduct after a recent trial used a woman’s underwear as evidence of consent, leading to a man being acquitted of rape. Protesters this week in Ireland, and abroad, are using the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent and sharing photos of women’s underwear.
A social media movement began when people started sharing photos of their underwear with the tag #ThisIsNotConsent after a jury took only an hour and a half to acquit the alleged rapist of a seventeen year old woman. The defense argued that her lacy thong implied consent. The defense said in closing statement, “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” Many women, in Ireland and abroad, viewed the closing statement as victim-blaming.
This led to protests across Ireland, including a protest at the Belfast City hall with over 100 women and men. Anne Orr, of the feminist organization ROSA, said that, “people took to the streets of Dublin and Cork and across the south to show that this is not okay, people’s underwear is not consent, what we wear is not consent, it has nothing to do with consent.”
Feminist organizations and protestors are building a movement to challenge Irish laws and the use of clothing, particularly underwear, as evidence of consent. Fiona Ferguson of People Before Profit asked “what message are courts sending out to victims of sexual assault, the court in Cork, what message are they sending to sexual assaults victims. Sexual assaults are on the rise but prosecutions are still shockingly low, why would any woman be encouraged to report, to have her underwear paraded around a court room.”
The recent rape acquittal follows the high profile case of two Ulster Rugby players who were also acquitted of rape earlier this year in Belfast. This trial focused on the woman’s underwear as evidence of consent as well. Carmel Gates, from Nipsa trade union, said that, “it is unfortunate that we are here again talking about women’s underwear as an issue in the courts, and it is an absolute disgrace.” Susan Dillion created “I Believe Her – Ireland,” a site dedicated to the creation of a safe space for survivors of sexual assault after the Ulster Rugby trial. Dillion started the social media movement #ThisIsNotConsent this week.
Media Resources: Irish Examiner 11/15/18; CNN 11/15/18