They were hastily arranged, emotionally charged protests, but the message was unanimous: The manner in which cases of rape and sexual abuse are handled needs to change.
The reverberations from the rugby rape trial spread yesterday, along the Liffey and down the Lee, taking in other towns and cities along the way, as protesters turned out to challenge a system they believe does little to encourage victims to come forward.
They came chanting “I believe her”, laden with yellow flowers, taking up the theme of the Yellow Rose campaign that began at Belfast Crown Court last month during the nine-week trial which culminated in the acquittal this week of Ireland rugby internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, as well as their friends Blane McIlroy, who was acquitted of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Outside City Hall in Cork, protesters held aloft daffodils, yellow carnations, tulips and roses as two women, survivors of rape, gave details of their own experience.
Tjitske de Vries, originally from the Netherlands, but living in Cork, said she has “known the shame” of being a victim of rape.
“About eight years ago in France I got raped,” she said. “I didn’t press charges because I knew what was ahead of me. I wanted to get it over with, I wanted to move on. I knew that if I pressed charges, I would have to relive that moment over and over.”
Ms de Vries said she was also raped while in a relationship and “that is not something you can easily talk about”.
Her experience prompted her to organise the rally outside City Hall, supported by Cork city councillor Fiona Ryan (Solidarity) and Green Party member Lorna Bogue.
Mary Crilly, the director of the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork City, delivered a colourful address.
“I just didn’t want to get up this morning,” she said. “I thought: ‘What’s the fucking point?’ and then, do you know I thought, there is a point, there really is a point.”
The point was the trial had finally brought the discussion of rape out into the open. “What I hope comes out of today and all of this... is that we start talking about it and we start discussing it, and we don’t stop,” said Ms Crilly.
“And we look at all the victims, and we look at the male rapes, because that goes on, and the bona fide young girls in this country that are raped, and we look them in the face and we say: ‘I am really sorry this has happened to you, I am really sorry’.”
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