In Ireland, a 17-year-old girl accused a 27-year-old man of raping her. In the course of the trial, to prove that she actually “wanted it” and that the act was consensual as he claimed, the defense paraded her lace-front thong around the courtroom. As evidence.
He was acquitted, even though a witness testified he had a hand to her throat and a second witness was worried enough to stop and ask whether they were all right.
Defense attorney Elizabeth O’Connell asked, while holding up the teenager’s underwear, “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.”
The verdict, as well as the way the case was argued, sparked immediate outrage, protests, and an explosion of defense under the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.
Noeline Blackwell, a rape crisis chief executive, spoke with the Irish Independent:
“These kind of mythologies and stereotypes around rape come up again and again in court cases, because the defence to rape is that the sex was consensual. So anything the defendant can do to suggest there was consent will be used.”
The image of the girl’s underwear has become the central rallying cry of the protests and online movement, with women – even politician Ruth Coppinger in the House of Representatives – holding up their own underwear to make their point: whether or not they wear a particular type of underwear has nothing to do with them “asking for it.”
Cartoonists, artists, and illustrators have chimed in as well, and if you’re wondering whether the humiliation of having your underwear held up in public could be yet another reason women don’t report rape, well…what do you think?
This is the second time just in 2018 when Ireland has been in the national spotlight after acquitting an accused rapist – back in March, two rugby stars walked away after being accused of raping a 19-year-old woman at a party. The not-guilty verdict in that case came despite her taxi driver reporting that she sobbed the entire ride home and that her white jeans were spattered with blood.
The defense in that case also brought out her underwear as evidence, as well as asking her why she didn’t scream if she didn’t want it.
It’s unbelievable in this day and age that women still struggle to win cases, true, but what’s more unbelievable is that the “she wanted it” defense is not only being used, but being used successfully to let criminals walk away without consequence.
Talk to you daughters. Talk to your sons. Explain what consent looks like, and that pretty underwear has nothing to do with it.
Change the future, one kid at a time.