During a rape trial, a 17-year-old girl’s thong was brandished in front of the jurors. The defense claimed that “wearing a thong with a laced front” signaled consent. The action and statement triggered protests across the country, as well as the viral hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, where women displayed their underwear to assert that what a person wears doesn’t signify consent.
Ruth Coppinger, a member of the Irish parliament, discussed the issue of presenting underwear as a form of evidence of consent.
“It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs in this incongruous setting,” said Coppinger while pulling a pair of thong underwear from her sleeve on Tuesday, even as the speaker objected.
“But the reason I’m doing it — how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?” she added.
Coppinger was referring to a rape trial in the city of Cork, where a 17-year-old girl’s underwear was displayed to the jurors as evidence of consent. According to a report by CBS News, the defendant was ultimately acquitted.
“A barrister actually told a jury to ‘look at the way she was dressed,’ that she was ‘open to meeting someone’ because she was ‘wearing a thong with a laced front,'” said Coppinger.
“Women in this country are getting a little bit weary at the routine victim-blaming going on in Irish courts.”
Protests were organized in the cities of Dublin and Cork, along with Belfast in Northern Ireland. Women marched while carrying pairs of underwear featuring the phrase, “This is not consent.”
The protestors are seeking reform in Ireland’s courts to help eliminate a culture that supports victim-blaming.
Hundreds march through #Cork city to the courthouse where a 17-year old’s underwear was used by the defence barrister when addressing the jury in a rape trial #thisisnotconsent pic.twitter.com/4yqGcW6XPG
— Fiona Corcoran (@fiona96fmnews) November 14, 2018
“Bringing rape myths into a sexual violence case is to bring misogyny into a sexual violence case,” said Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s Clíona Saidléar.
She asserts that the country’s culture puts “enormous pressure” on girls and women “to be sexualized and to present sexually,” but punishes them during rape trials, using that behavior as “evidence.”
In other rape trials, according to Coppinger, contraception and fake tans have also been used as supposed proof of consent.