WOMEN have shared pictures of their underwear online after a teenager’s thong was used as evidence in a rape trial in Ireland.
The case in County Cork sparked outrage after a defence barrister asked the jury to consider the 17 year-old complainant’s “thong with a lace front” during the trial.
Elizabeth O’Connell SC told jurors: “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
She asked them consider if what the teen was wearing showed she was “open to meeting someone and being with someone”, reports the Irish Examiner.
The accused was later found not guilty.
Following the trial, a viral campaign saw women posting images of their underwear on social media with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, which was created by a closed Facebook group called Mna na hEireann, which means Women of Ireland.
Susan Dillon, a member of the group who also runs the Twitter account I Believe Her – Ireland, told the Irish Independent: “One of the women in the group was angry at the comments made, as we all were”.
They decided on the protest to highlight “what women wear does not constitute consent”, she said, adding: “Irrespective of the other evidence… no item of the complainant’s clothing implied consent.”
On Twitter, one woman wrote: “Be it a thong, bikini bottoms, period pants, Spanx, or a wedding ring, #ThisIsNotConsent.”
Another said: “Just because my panties are cute doesn’t mean I’m saying yes.”
“Wearing gross pants, nice pants or no pants, #ThisIsNotConsent,” another said.
On Tuesday Irish politician Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the parliament chamber to highlight the outrage felt by some of the public.
“Why is nothing yet being done to stop the routine use of rape myths in trials, and how concerned is this Government about the chilling effect this is having on victims coming forward?” Ms Coppinger asked Prime Minister Leo Varadkar as she held the underwear aloft.
“It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here in this incongruous of the Dail. But the reason I’m doing it: how do you think a… woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?
“How heroic do you have to be Taoiseach, to pursue a rape trial in this country?” she asked.
Hundreds of people protested in Dublin city centre on Wednesday to highlight concerns over how rape trials are conducted in Ireland.
Organised by a number of feminist organisations, demonstrators held up sets of underwear and signs that read “Stop victim blaming in courts” while chanting “Clothes are not consent”.
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith told the crowd that they must organise and fight back against injustice.
“Consistently we see in court where women’s bodies have been violated and women are made to feel like it’s their fault,” she said.
“Prejudice is at the heart of the system itself, no matter where you come from and who you accuse – there is a lack of justice in this country for women. This is a nasty unjust system – why are the government not bringing legislation forward to stop this happening in court?”
Protests will also be held in Galway, Limerick, Belfast and Cork this week due to the support for the social media campaign.
Fiona Ryan, one organiser, said the case was endemic of what is currently wrong with how the justice system treats alleged victims of sexual assault.
“This case and the particular awfulness of what was said is endemic in our judiciary system and it’s par for the course, it’s actually very regular to see this type of thing be brought up in any case of sexual violence, particularly sexual violence against women.
“This is really a demand for systemic change for people, particularly women, but every victim of sexual violence, to get a fair hearing. We can’t wait any longer.”
As the hashtag trended on Twitter, Scottish mum Linda Armstrong backed the campaign after her daughter Lindsay, 17, was told to hold up her thong to the jury during her rape trial and to read out the slogan on the front saying: “Little Devil”.
Lindsay, from New Cumnock in Ayrshire, took her life two weeks after the trial in 2001 found her 15-year-old attacker guilty of rape.
Mum Linda told the Daily Record: “There was an outcry after Lindsay’s case and I thought things would definitely change and there would be progress but there hasn’t.
“In 2018, we are still having the same conversation. Maybe this case will make a difference but I really don’t know. I hope it will.”
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Present at the march in Dublin, Ms Coppinger told the Press Association that people in Ireland are “sickened by this type of society” and are “anxious for change”.
“It’s reflective of the last five years in Ireland. It’s been building, changing attitudes towards the position of women in society, particularly among young people.
“The idea that this could happen in 2018, that what you wear somehow justifies any kind of sexual violence, it’s backward.”
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