This is Not Consent

Tipperary Feminist Collective stands in solidarity against victim blaming.

Cashel, Co. Tipperary, 15thNovember 2018

Last night the Tipperary Feminist Collective (TFC) placed items of women’s underwear on the doors of Cashel District Court in response to recent victim-blaming during rape trial proceedings at the Central Criminal Court in Cork.

Last week, a 27 year old man was found not guilty of raping a 17 year old girl. In the course of her closing arguments, senior counsel for the accused Elizabeth O’ Connell made the following remarks to the jury:

 “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” she asked, according to the Irish Examiner’s report.

“You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

While TFC accepts the verdict of the court and recognizes that we as the general public are not aware of all the facts of the case, we were – and continue to be – absolutely outraged at Ms. O’Connell’s remarks.

TFC accepts that every case turns on its facts and that these remarks may not have been the turning point of the case at hand. However, to suggest that consent may be inferred by what kind of underwear a woman is wearing is simply deplorable.

For the first time in the history of this State, a legal definition of consent (and several circumstances under which consent cannot be given) was introduced by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. That definition is as follows; “a person consents to a sexual act if he or she freely and voluntarily agrees in that act.” The Act further states that consent can be revoked at any time and furthermore “any failure or omission on the part of a person to offer resistance to an act does not of itself constitute consent to that act.” According to the law, what you wear, how you act and what your sexual past looks like should have no bearing on whether you have consented to sexual activity.

However, in practice these damaging tactics are still being used by defence lawyers in order to imply that previous sexual acts, interactions or dress style can be used to make assumptions about future behaviour and willingness to consent..

We are tired of victim blaming. Of slut shaming. Of rape culture. And we’re not the only ones. Across the country, men and women protested under the banner “#ThisIsNotConsent”. We stand in solidarity with the women who marched with their underwear of all shapes and sizes, colours and materials. We stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of sexual assaults –  those who face an unsympathetic and aggressive court system and those who were unable to face such an ordeal – for it is those women who are on trial too. “Look at what you were wearing, look at how much you had to drink, look at how many people you’ve slept with” or to quote Ms. O’ Connell; “[you] were wearing a thong with a lace front.”  

In September 2018, the terms of reference of a review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences in Ireland were published. The expert group is due to present a final report to the Minister of Justice by the end of the year. The Tipperary Feminist Collective urges this review group to take into account this week’s events and recommend new ways of trying sexual offences that do not retraumatise survivors of rape and assault.

To learn more, visit the FaceBook page of  Susan Dillon of I Believe Her Ireland:

If you have been affected by this story, please contact the Rape Crisis Centre Midwest on 061 311511.

The Tipperary Feminist Collective is an emerging community action group committed to bringing about social change for good in Tipperary. We recognise the diversity of humankind and are committed to the dismantling of the social, economic, physical and institutional barriers facing people due to multiple and intersecting layers of discrimination. Our aim is to build grassroots support for existing community groups and harness the power of ordinary people to bring about change.

All images are the property of Tipperary Feminist Collective and may be reproduced without licence or copyright.


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