Hundreds of protesters have marched through Irish cities after a defense lawyer used an alleged rape victim’s choice of underwear to argue that the teenage girl had consented to sex.
The demonstrations in Dublin, Cork, and Limerick followed the acquittal of a 27-year-old man after his lawyer told jurors the teenage complainant "was wearing a thong with a lace front."
The case sparked fury in Ireland, with thousands of women sharing images of their underwear on Twitter and the hashtag #thisisnotconsent in the aftermath of the verdict.
The man, who was acquitted by a jury at Cork’s Central Criminal Court on November 5, denied raping the 17-year-old girl in a lane in the city.
Elizabeth O’Connell, the defence counsel, reportedly told jurors: “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.”
Protesters place underwear on the steps of the courthouse in #Cork city during #thisisnotconsent protest pic.twitter.com/pY4Dk9dIc8
— Fiona Corcoran (@fiona96fmnews) November 14, 2018
A jury of eight men and four women acquitted the man unanimously after deliberating for 90 minutes, the Irish Examiner reported.
Ms O’Connell’s comments drew condemnation from women’s rights groups and sparked calls to change the way rape trials are conducted.
On Tuesday protests reached Ireland’s parliament, where Ruth Coppinger, a member of the Dail for Dublin West, produced a blue thong during a debate.
"It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here… how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?" she said.
I hear cameras cut away from me when I displayed this underwear in #Dáil. In courts victims can have their underwear passed around as evidence and it's within the rules, hence need to display in Dáil. Join protests tomorrow. In Dublin it's at Spire, 1pm.#dubw #ThisIsNotConsent pic.twitter.com/DvtaJL61qR
Click Here: Atlanta United FC Jersey— Ruth Coppinger TD (@RuthCoppingerTD) November 13, 2018
Ms Coppinger led a protest march through Dublin city centre on Wednesday under the slogan "end victim blaming in the courts."
Meanwhile about 200 protesters marched through Cork to lay underwear on the steps of the court where the trial was held.
Noeline Blackwell, the head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, told the Irish Independent: "The reference to the girl’s underwear and the assumption and inference that the jury was being invited to draw – that because she was dressed like that she was asking for sex – does not surprise us."
“It comes up very, very regularly how someone was dressed, the amount of drink they had taken, why they hadn’t screamed if they were in trouble.
"These kind of mythologies and stereotypes around rape come up again and again in court cases, because the defence to rape is that the sex was consensual. So anything the defendant can do to suggest there was consent will be used,” she said.
Ireland’s minister for justice and equality said he was open to the notion of changing the law on the conduct of rape trials but would wait for the findings of a review group before making a decision.
"If there’s legislative change necessary then I’d be very keen and I’d set about doing that but I believe it’s more about the practice and procedure particularly in the case that you mentioned, I don’t like to comment on individual cases, but it was a woman barrister who posed the question in that particular case," Charlie Flanagan told the Irish Examiner.