“Asking for it…”

This is a great article by Irish author Louise O’Neill, which sums up so many of my own emotions about the Ulster Rugby rape trial verdict, having followed the trial closely.

It’s been a divisive trial, but one thing can be certain: seeing what that girl went through – shamed, and shamed, over and over – to prove she was essentially “asking for it”, was appalling, and for sure will not be an encouragement for other victims of rape to come forward.

These guys weren’t cleared or exonerated. The view was there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But my question is: what does it take?! In our current legal system, if all the evidence presented in this case wasn’t enough, what evidence CAN prove rape, short of CCTV/the guy admitting it, especially in a situation where the girl already knows the guy (or guys, as in this case…)? Or are women just always presumed to be lying?

Here we had their texts talking about the hysterical state they’d left her off in (let’s not even start on their other texts…); the taxi driver confirming how upset she was; her texting one of the guys the following morning to say “what happened last night was not consensual”; her texting her friends to say what happened; a doctor’s report saying she had an “internal tear”, which is why she was bleeding (she was still bleeding from this the night AFTER the incident), and on and on. Even the fact that she went to trial, KNOWING how much the odds were stacked against her, counts.

She was in the witness box for 8 days. She was the one on trial here, not those guys. The defence’s line of questioning was degrading and insulting, and designed to shame, humiliate and sully her, and drag her reputation to the gutter. We look back in horror at our dark Magdalen Laundries past – have we really moved on at all?

A big concern I’m left with is the message to men: “it’s almost impossible to prove, lads. Your word against hers. Just call her a liar; the system will do the rest.” Well, it worked for the now POTUS, on camera admitting to sexual assault, and still elected.

Those guys may have walked free, but anyone who read their text exchange knows what they think of women. At least they can never escape the facts of those exchanges, laid out in black and white. And no, that’s not just “banter”; I refuse to normalise that behaviour by calling it that. It’s toxic, and it’s dangerous.

As for that girl, broken all over again… I hope that the knowledge that so many believe her (and I am one of those) helps to give her strength moving forwards.

Really informative article:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/inside-court-12-the-complete-story-of-the-belfast-rape-trial-1.3443620?mode=amp

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