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Irish rape trial sparks social media outrage

Women around the world are posting pictures of their underwear on Twitter after a 27-year-old man was acquitted in a rape trial in Ireland during which a teenager's thong was used as evidence.

Posted: Nov 17, 2018 9:34 AM
Updated: Nov 17, 2018 9:59 AM

Women around the world are posting pictures of their underwear on Twitter after a 27-year-old man was acquitted in a rape trial in Ireland during which a teenager's thong was used as evidence.

A jury in the criminal court in the city of Cork took an hour and a half deliberating on November 6 to declare the defendant not guilty of raping a 17-year-old in a lane at night.

In her final address, defense barrister Elizabeth O'Connell asked the jurors to take into account the underwear the teenager was wearing.

"Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front," she said, according to the Irish Examiner.

Using a thong as evidence of implied consent was considered victim-blaming by many women on social media, who started publishing pictures of their underwear using the #ThisIsNotConsent hashtag.

"We had hoped that as a society we had moved on from these archaic, victim-blaming rape myths," Susan Dillon, who is part of a group of women in Ireland who came up with the hashtag and tried to spread the word, told CNN.

Earlier this year, Dillon set up the "I Believe Her - Ireland" Twitter page with the aim of providing an anonymous and safe space for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories and to get support.

She did so after the Belfast rape trial in March 2018 in which former Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of raping a student at a house party, another controversial sentencing that ignited protests.

Ruth Coppinger, a socialist member of the Irish parliament, tweeted a picture of her underwear after she said she displayed it in Dáil Éireann, the assembly's lower house. She also urged her followers to join protests in Dublin against the Cork verdict:

"I hear cameras cut away from me when I displayed this underwear in #Dáil. In courts victims can have their underwear passed around as evidence and it's within the rules, hence need to display in Dáil."

The protests across Ireland are being organized by the socialist feminist organization ROSA. Supporters are asked to bring along their underwear.

Other women from across the world joined the #ThisIsNotConsent.

"I'm a feminist and human rights supporter who is frustrated that this argument is being used in a 21st century Irish court of law," Michelle Sullivan, who is based in Canada, told CNN.

Emily Buell, from San Jose, California, also shared pictures of her underwear: "How are we living in 2018? Women are feeling empowered, finally, with the #metoo movement letting women of all age speak up."

Others were not surprised.

"The story unfortunately didn't shock me, because harmful attitudes like this seem to be widespread, but it did anger me," said Courtney Peterson, who is based in England. "To think that a young girl has already been through so much trauma and she's had to listen to older professional people implying that she's to blame is horrible."

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