Video: Hundreds attend 'I Believe Her' rally in Cork

Video: Hundreds attend 'I Believe Her' rally in Cork
Holding Yellow Flowers as a sign of support at the I Believe Her Solidarity Rally outside City Hall, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

HUNDREDS of men, women and children gathered at City Hall yesterday for a rally in solidarity with rape victims and abuse survivors.

The gathering, called an ‘I believe her’ rally, was organised following the not guilty verdict handed down in the Belfast trial involving rugby players Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, and their friends Rory Harrison and Blane McIlroy.

Nicole Flanagan, Rochestown, Linda Young, and Sarah O'Connor at the I Believe Her Solidarity Rally outside City Hall. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Nicole Flanagan, Rochestown, Linda Young, and Sarah O'Connor at the I Believe Her Solidarity Rally outside City Hall. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A number of people gave speeches at the rally, including abuse survivors. One survivor spoke about being involved in an ongoing investigation into a historical abuse case and another, Tjitske de Vries, spoke about being raped eight years ago when she lived in Barcelona.

Tjitske told the crowd she was raped by two men while waiting for a bus in the South of France. She said afterwards she had many thoughts about what she could have done differently to stop it from happening.

“It all came back to one thing — I didn’t do anything wrong — but I felt the shame.”

Head of Cork’s Sexual Violence Centre, Mary Crilly, spoke about the need for a change in culture around “the sense of entitlement” that some men feel they have towards women.

Ms Crilly said the court system, at present, is appalling and not fit for purpose, and that it was important to keep talking about these issues and to listen to abuse survivors.

Aisling Murphy and Kiristin Tocci, at the Rally. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Aisling Murphy and Kiristin Tocci, at the Rally. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan and Green Party councillor Lorna Bogue also spoke at the rally.

Ms Ryan said the Belfast rape trial “sharply exposed the misogyny of victim blaming” within the legal system. The councillor said that the trial was more concerned with “the character assassination” of the complainant and proved how broken the system is.

Ms Bogue said she was “horrified” by the Belfast rape trial.

“Make no mistake about it, your sexual history can be used against you. What you were wearing can be used against you in court,” she said.

“This cannot go on, we cannot punish people for their sexuality. When you are on trial, it is the survivor who is on trial for rape in this country.”

Students, Gillian O'Brien, Emma O'Brien, Ellen Daly and Emer Kiely, at the Rally. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Students, Gillian O'Brien, Emma O'Brien, Ellen Daly and Emer Kiely, at the Rally. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Mick Barry TD was among those yesterday to offer his support to the movement and to stand in solidarity with rape and abuse survivors.

“I am here to show support to the victims of rape and I am here to say, I still believe her.”

Mr Barry said he had been appalled by how the woman in the Belfast Rape trial was treated in court.

“The way she was put in the dock, for the best part of a week. The way that her undergarments were displayed and used in the courtroom.

“I think it raises a lot of questions about the way that rape trials are organised, not just north of the border, but globally really.”

Mr Barry also said: “There needs to be a far clearer understanding among people about what consent means.”

General View at the Rally, a supporter placing her flower on the steps of City Hall. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
General View at the Rally, a supporter placing her flower on the steps of City Hall. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Among the crowd was Sarah O’Connor, who said she was attending because she did not feel the complainant was fairly treated in the Belfast trial. “There was an imbalance in the way they were treated to the way she was treated. She was blamed, why didn’t she scream, etc.

“I think there is one idea about rape, a violent experience down an alley, and some people think it is that or it is not rape. There is no consideration of the middle ground. It is not all Hollywood, aggressive rape. It can be subversive.”

Nicole Flanagan, Rochestown, said the message from the trial was for women to assume they wouldn’t be believed if something was to happen to them, so why bother reporting it.

Linda Young, Cork city, said rape trials, in general, seem to focus on what the victim was doing, not the men.

Aisling Kett, Rochestown, said she was very angry but not surprised.

“The victim was on trial as much as the accused were. She was on the stand for eight days. The way the courts deal with these cases needs to change, it needs to be looked at.

“You can see why people don’t report sexual violence,” she said.

“I believe her, goes beyond this one woman, it is for every woman who has ever been blamed for assault or rape because of what they were wearing or because of their behaviour. It is about solidarity.”

I Believe Her Solidarity Rally, outside City Hall, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
I Believe Her Solidarity Rally, outside City Hall, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Sarah Diviney, Alison O’Shea, and Clodagh Dermody from the Crawford College of Art and Design, said they were representing all the people at their college who wanted to be there.

Sarah said: “I think it is good to show support that victims of abuse are not alone.”

Alison said the verdict was tough to take.

“I think everyone in college was heartbroken and we were discussing how it would deter a lot of people from coming forward,” she said.

“I mean she was on the stand for eight days and she was cross-examined by four different people. It was hard to think of any young girl the same age as us going through that, and we are just so upset for her and we are here to show solidarity for men and women who have survived abuses like this.”

Clodagh said even if there was consent, the behaviour of the men involved was horrific.

“What went on in the room and then how it was dealt with after, nobody should ever have to be treated like that,” she said.

I Believe Her Solidarity Rally, outside City Hall, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
I Believe Her Solidarity Rally, outside City Hall, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Sisters Fiona and Deirdre Heffernan also attended the rally.

“We are here so everyone knows that they have a voice and they can be heard,” Fiona said. “More people need to report sexual abuse and these cases need to be treated with more care.”

Deirdre said there needs to be a change in the attitudes of young men and their relationship with women.

“It takes more than one person to speak up if something is going to happen, but I think the more people who speak up, the bigger this movement is going to get,” she said.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of rape on Wednesday after a nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court. Two other men charged in connection with the alleged attack were also found not guilty. Blane McIlroy, 26, was acquitted of exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information

Speaking afterwards Mr Jackson, who was also acquitted of sexual assault, thanked the judge and jury for giving him a fair trial. The high profile trial was one of the longest ever heard in Belfast and generated an unprecedented level of attention. Police said the complainant was upset and disappointed with the outcome but did not regret reporting the matter.

The rugby players had consistently denied raping the same woman during an after party at Jackson’s home on June 28, 2016. The jury of eight men and three women returned its unanimous verdict after deliberating for a total of three hours and 45 minutes.

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