A washing line of thongs was hung in front of the Dublin Spire today as part of a demonstration against victim-blaming in rape cases in the courts.
“Thongs are not consent” was the overriding message from several demonstrations in Ireland following the recent Cork trial which discussed an alleged rape victim’s choice of underwear.
Hundreds of people took part in protests in Dublin, Cork and Limerick this afternoon calling for a change in the way rape trials are conducted in Ireland.
The protest sought to end victim blaming in sexual assault cases, to introduce legal reforms, expand public services for victims and to end ‘macho culture’.
It follows a Cork case on November 6th where a 27-year-old man was accused of rape.
Defending solicitor Elizabeth O’Connell SC told the jury to consider what the alleged victim was wearing and whether her underwear suggested she was ‘open to meeting someone and being with someone’.
O’Connell SC said: “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
A not-guilty verdict was returned in the case.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who held up thongs to the Dáil yesterday, raised the underwear at the Dublin protest today and led chants including:
“This is not consent.”
“Sleeping is not consent.”
“Silence is not consent.”
Coppinger TD said: “We weighed up and discussed whether to show a thong in the Dail because we don’t want to be trivialising something that’s very serious.
“But we felt it was important to show the incongruous nature of such garments being shown in the Dail, but every day they are shown in a courtroom in front of rape victims.”
— Ruth Coppinger TD (@RuthCoppingerTD) November 14, 2018
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said the female’s solicitors comments showed a prejudice at the heart of a class-ridden system.
Smith TD said: “Shame on that woman for what she did to her sister.
“Let’s not think that feminism is about relying on all women just because they have a set of X chromosomes. Feminism should be about sisters standing up for each other against oppression.”
Rita Harrold, an activist with Women’s rights group ROSA said women will no longer stand for a culture that tells them to keep themselves safe: “Rapists cause rape, not thongs, not short skirts, not dark alleyways, not hotel rooms.”
Further protests will be held in Belfast on Thursday and in Waterford on Friday.
Women all over Ireland and abroad are continuing to post pictures of their underwear online, with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, to campaign against the issue.