The ‘asking for it’ mentality has to stop: Belfast students respond to the thong rape case

‘No one asks to be abused’

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When we forget to lock our doors, are we "asking" to be burgled? When we wear expensive jewellery, are we "asking" to be mugged? Or, when we wear lacy underwear, are we "asking" to be raped?

One woman seems to think so. At the trila of the 17-year-old victim, Lawyer Elizabeth O'Connell told jurors in Cork at the trial: "You have to look at what she was dressed in. She was wearing a thong with a lace front." Her underwear was presented to and handled by those in the court to "prove" that the sex was consensual.

The defendant was later found not guilty.

Irish women and women all over the world have taken to social media to post pictures of their underwear in protest of the handling of a rape case wherein a teenage girl's underwear was used as evidence of her "consent".

The ruling echoes the Ulster Rugby rape trial in which players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding stood accused of rape. Despite being judged not guilty, the case and verdict resulted in mass outcry marking the beginning of the "I believe her" movement.

Belfast has also been outraged by the ruling. On Thursday 15th November a 250-strong rally against victim-blaming in the court was led by ROSA NI, a socialist feminist organisation. Those attending were encouraged to bring their own clothing and underwear in protest of the case.

Speaking to The Belfast Tab, a ROSA NI organiser Cerys Falvey said: "We held the rally in solidarity with the victim of the rape trial in Cork, but also to emphasise that the way in which sexual violence trials are dealt with globally is completely unacceptable.

"We need to challenge capitalist courts who allow a victims underwear to be used as evidence of consent perpetuating gender norms in which women are viewed to be partially responsible for the violence perpetrated against them".

She continued: "Men are 230 more times likely to be raped themselves than falsely accused of rape, yet conviction rates are extremely low. It’s not surprising that most victims don’t feel like they can report when they know that they will end up on trial themselves.

"We now need to build a movement across the North and the South, but also globally, to demand better sex education so consent is widely understood and actively sought but also to challenge the capitalist system which allows this to happen and exacerbates gender norms and toxic masculinity".

170 students of Queen's University Belfast have claimed to be sexually assaulted. To them, this sends out the message that they were "asking" for it.

Phoebe Comiskey, a student at QUB who attended the rally on Thursday told The Belfast Tab: "The 'asking for it' mentality has to stop. No one 'asks' to be abused. The fact that we had to stand on the street because clothing is still viewed as consent is a joke.

"But over 200 women and men standing together outside City Hall could just get people to think a bit differently about women’s representation in society."