#ThisIsNotConsent marches: Woman awaiting rape trial despairs of underwear comments

Olivia Kelleher

Latest: A young woman who reported a rape and is awaiting a trial in the case says that she has a "nightmare" about her underwear being brought up in evidence to the jury and that people in her position dread having their whole lives paraded before the courts.

The woman, who attended a rally in Cork city today to protest against victim shaming in rape cases, said that the courts process in rape trials is heavily weighted towards the defendants.

She said her anxious wait for a trial date is further compounded by cases where barristers ask jurors to reflect on the underwear worn by the women in sexual assault cases.

"I am terrified? What are they going to do to me in court? Who knows what they are going to bring up against me? I struggled to report it (the incident) for ages.

"For a girl to stand up in court and have her underwear mentioned. That could happen to me. The case (where underwear was mentioned) has blown my mind."

The young woman says she scans newspapers every day to see how rape cases are handled. She frequently despairs at what she reads.

I look at every single (rape) case. It is always in my head. Every day I am constantly shocked. I am never satisfied by what I read.

The young woman was among up to 350 people who turned up to protest against victim shaming following a recent case in the Central Criminal Court where a barrister representing a man in a rape trial said that the jury should reflect on the underwear worn by a teenage girl.

The 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old woman in a laneway in Cork.

At the sitting of the court in Cork a barrister told jurors they should have regard for the underwear the complainant wore on the night.

"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."

Meanwhile, amongst the attendees at the rally in Patrick Street was Jackie Foley from Ballyvolane in Cork city who is the mother of two girls.

She said she was horrified by the comments made in the case.

"It further copperfastens victim blaming and shaming. We need to look at the judiciary and training specifically around sexual violence and assault.

"The message being given out to young women is to be ashamed of theirselves and their bodies. To consider what they are wearing in case they are in some way attracting unwanted male attention.

We are not responsible for controlling male desire. I am so angered.

UCC student Kaitlyn Cunningham (20) said clothing worn by a woman should never be up for discussion in a rape case.

"It is 2018 and that stuff shouldn't go on anymore. It has gone on too long. I wasn't even that surprised (when I heard of the case)."

The head of Cork's Sexual Violence Centre, Mary Crilly, said jurors in rape cases should never be told to have regard for what the women wore.

"I think it will put young girls off reporting and I don't blame them. It is totally unfair and the victim is blamed all the times. We need to change what happens in the courtroom."

Protestors carried placards complete with underwear attached proclaiming that "My knickers is not my consent."

The lunchtime protest outside Brown Thomas was organised by the Rosa Socialist Feminist movement.

Similar protests occurred around the country.

Earlier: 'People are assaulted no matter what you wear': Protesters call for overhaul of conduct of rape trials

Protests are taking place this afternoon calling for an overhaul of how rape trials are conducted.

It follows controversial remarks made in a recent case in Cork over a 17-year-old woman's thong.

Demonstrations are taking place in Dublin, Limerick and Cork with more planned for Belfast and Waterford.

People Before Profit Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger held up a lace thong in the Dail yesterday to highlight the issue.

Speaking at the protest in Dublin she says societal change is badly needed: "Judges and solicitors are using stereotypes that they believe will influence juries potentially so we need to change ideas in society.

"I would say a massive discussion on consent and the sex education bill should be prioritised and let's start in schools"

Rita Harold from the feminist movement Rosa says what women wear is focused on too much in trials and society in general.

"We hear this a lot that you should take steps to protect yourself, in other words, dress conservatively and stay in places that you know are safe.

"That's not real. The reality is that people are assaulted no matter what you wear."

Digital Desk

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