A rally is being held in Cork city centre at lunchtime tomorrow to end what organisers describe as the ‘culture of victim blaming that characterises the judicial system when taking on cases of sexual violence’.
The rally was prompted by a case before the Central Criminal Court in Cork last week, where a 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old.
In her closing address to the jury, a barrister told jurors they should have regard for the underwear the complainant wore on the night.
“You have to look at the way she was dressed,” she said. “She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The comments drew international attention and condemnation and ROSA Cork has called tomorrow’s protest to channel the anger expressed into a demand for action.
“That underwear can be used of evidence of consent is appalling and I think most people are disgusted that this is the status quo in our judiciary system,” ROSA spokesperson Fiona Ryan said.
“The barrister should never have made reference to her underwear, the judge should have intervened to state it shouldn't have been taken into account. We object to the idea that clothing can be used to determine consent in any way.”
She said the protest was at how sexual assault cases are dealt with in their entirety in Ireland, including sentencing.
“There are a variety of things that can be done, such as specific training for judges, which has been done internationally,” she said.
“But the reality right now is we are not even beginning to even look at reform. This goes beyond what questions can be raised in a trial system is also about lenient sentencing. It always seems to be leniency for the perpetrator but when it comes to the victim trying to get justice, such leniency is rarely given.”
The rally takes place at 1pm tomorrow outside Brown Thomas on Patrick Street.