Rape survivor begs court to show victims ‘some respect’

Leona O’Callaghan

By David Raleigh

A woman who was raped as a child has written an open letter to the judiciary, highlighting her frustration with how the court system deals with victims and complainants of rape and sexual assault.

Leona O’Callaghan, aged 37, who is originally from Garryowen, but now living in Askeaton, Co Limerick, said she wrote the letter to the judiciary after reading coverage of a recent rape trial in which the jury was asked by the accused’s barrister to consider that the complainant had been wearing a lace-fronted thong at the time of the alleged offence.

The accused, aged 27, was found not guilty of raping the 17-year-old complainant.

In her letter, Ms O’Callaghan wrote: “I seen this week that another defending barrister questioned the [choice of] underwear of a woman who reported an assault.

“Again I ask [is there] a need for this... line of enquiry where the victim is ridiculed on their choices which are, or at least should be, nothing to do with whether or not a rape occurred.”

When contacted, Ms O’Callaghan said she acknowledged the man accused in the case was found not guilty by a jury and is entitled to a presumption of innocence.

However, she said, that in general terms, a barrister referring to a complainant’s underwear during an alleged rape case was unacceptable.

“Rape does not happen because a girl chooses to wear a thong,” said Ms O’Callaghan. “Rape happens because of rapists.”

Ms O’Callaghan was first raped by her abuser, who has pleaded guilty to seven charges of rape and assault, when she was 12 years old.

In her letter, the mother of three pleads with the judiciary to “take into account a rapists’ ‘good behaviour’ if you have to, his age and his medical conditions, even his difficult upbringing ... I ask you to in return to show me the same respect, morality, integrity, and reason.”

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