Thousands of people across Ireland came out today to protest after yesterday’s not guilty verdicts in the rugby rape trials.
Rallies were held in Belfast, Dublin, Derry, Limerick and Cork.
The Belfast rally was at the Laganside Courthouse, with about 1000 people (Talkback estimate) – women and men, young and old – cohering around messages of #IBelieveHer and #Metoo. The rally at O’Connell Street in Dublin was even bigger.
It’s been a harrowing 9 week trial, and it’s raised a lot of difficult questions. Not least the deficiencies in our legal system when it comes to trying sexual crimes, the high evidential bar for prosecution, the role of media reporting, the influence of social media, some men’s ideas about women and sex, and our underdeveloped understandings of what consent means in practice.
For a balanced discussion of many of the issues involved, today’s episode of Talkback is a pretty good place to start.
Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times has a very detailed report of court proceedings, worth reading in full.
The Second Captains Podcast has an interesting discussion from a male, sports culture point of view.
The women’s movement have highlighted 5 key messages, arising from the trials. These are expressed in a forthcoming open letter, the text of which is below.
We’ll have some articles on Slugger exploring these issues in more depth, and from various angles, over the coming weeks. But for now, Clare Bailey’s words at today’s Belfast rally resonate loudly –
“The justice system is not broken – it was built this way”.
To whom it may concern,
1. Our criminal justice system is not fit for purpose when it comes to dealing with sexual crimes. Victims are re-traumatised and are treated like they are on trial. The system is designed to defend the rights of the accused with little regard for the victim.
2. The media reporting of rape trials is intrusive, salacious and biased towards undermining the victim’s testimony. It serves to increase the distress of victims and survivors of sexual abuse and rape. Cases should not be reported on until after the jury has given its verdict.
3. The criminal justice system’s treatment of the victim and media reporting of this trial will deter victims from coming forward and reporting in the future. The rampant culture of victim blaming and shaming needs addressed.
4. We urgently need to have a compulsory comprehensive relationship and sexuality education programme in all schools which includes consent and toxic masculinity.
5. We need adequately resourced support services for victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
Women’s Aid have a free and confidential 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline.
Call 0808 802 1414
Email Support: email@example.com
Text support to 07797 805 839
Freephone from all landlines and mobiles. Translation service available.
Open to people of all genders affected by domestic & sexual violence.
Nexus also offer counselling for survivors of sexual violence, and have offices in Belfast, L’Derry and Enniskillen.
Comments have been turned off for this post. Whilst we would welcome a full and frank debate on the issues, discussion of the specifics of the trial is currently out of bounds for legal reasons. We are seeking further clarification on this.