Uproar in Ireland after teen's underwear used in rape trial

Ireland's parliament was addressed by a female MP who showed them thong underwear, exclaiming: "It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here... how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at...her underwear being shown in a court?"

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Uproar in Ireland after teen's underwear used in rape trial - NewsMavens
Graffiti, Twitter

Why this story matters:

People in Ireland are pushing back against the practice of using an accuser's clothing against them in court, after the council of a man accused of rape asked the jury to analyse a teenager's underwear – a "lacy thong" – during the trial.

Irish MP Ruth Coppinger protested by pulling a lacy thong out of her sleeve in parliament, asking when the issue of sexual violence would be taken seriously by the Dáil (Irish Parliament).

"It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here in this incongruous setting... how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?"

Protests organised by Socialist feminist group Rosa were held in a number of Irish cities on Wednesday calling for an end to "victim-blaming in the courts".

Several women posted photos of their underwear on social media with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent in a stand against the practice.

Details from the story:

  • Protests have been held in Irish cities after a 17-year-old woman's underwear was used in court to defend a man acquitted of rape.
  • The accused maintained that the sexual contact between him and the woman was consensual.
  • The closing argument of his senior counsel Elizabeth O'Connell, in which she asked jurors to reflect on the underwear worn by the teenage complainant, attracted widespread attention and prompted a series of online protest movements.
  • “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?" said O'Connell. "You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
  • An estimated 200 people gathered to march to the courthouse in Cork, where the trial took place, and lay underwear on its steps.
  • #ThisIsNotConsent became a popular hashtag, as women posted protest images of their underwear to denounce the appearance of the accuser's thong in court.
  • In response to the case, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said: "Nobody asks to be raped, and it's never the victim's fault. It doesn't matter what you wear, it doesn't matter where you went, who you went with or what you took... Nobody who is a victim of sexual violence is ever to blame for the crime committed on them."

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