By Socialist Party reporter
“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.”
These comments from defence barrister Elizabeth O’Connell in a Cork rape trial have sparked outrage throughout the island of Ireland and internationally. Made about a 17-year-old woman, and without any objection from the judge, the remarks were a clear example of victim-blaming and rape myths being used in open court. This is in a state where the majority of rapes and sexual assault are unreported, and only 10% of reports end in a conviction.
Protests across Ireland
Under the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, women have been posting photos of their underwear. Angry protests have now taken place in cities across Ireland at very short notice and during work hours. In Cork, 500 marched to the courthouse where the comments were made, many leaving underwear on the steps and railings of the building. 500 also protested in central Dublin, 250 in Belfast, 50 in Limerick and 40 in Galway. Most of these protests were called on the initiative of ROSA – the Socialist Feminist Movement, of which the Socialist Party is a central part.
This explosion of anger reflects the fact that, increasingly, women and young people are not willing to accept victim-blaming and misogyny in society. In March/April this year, thousands took to the streets after the acquittals of Ulster rugby players in a rape trial in Belfast where similar victim-blaming tactics were used. Huge numbers got active in the referendum campaign to achieve repeal and abortion rights.
Two weeks ago, Google workers in Dublin walked out of work as part of a global action against sexual harassment. The latter example shows the potential for workers to get organised in their workplaces against such manifestations of sexism, an issue that the trade union movement must take up in a serious way.
Thong in the Dáil
Solidarity TD and Socialist Party member Ruth Coppinger reflected the mood when she questioned Leo Varadkar in the Dáil, demanding action from the government on victim-blaming in the courts and holding up a thong in the chamber. This is probably a first in Dáil history, and cameras quickly panned away from the “offending item”. However, as Ruth pointed out, if this is incongruous in the national parliament, it’s even more so for underwear to be used in a court as evidence against a woman.
Ruth’s bold intervention has garnered huge attention from the national media, along with the protests that have taken place. Significantly, it has also gotten coverage in media outlets in countries as diverse as New Zealand, Australia, India, Turkey, Canada, the US (including the New York Times, Newsweek and CNN) and in many countries across Europe.
International Women’s Day walkouts
There is potential for a new movement around the issue of victim-blaming and gender-based violence. ROSA are calling for mass protests and walkouts on International Women’s Day 2019, drawing inspiration from the Spanish example, where a ‘feminist strike’ brought millions out of work and onto the streets this year.
This movement must absolutely demand and fight for changes such as compulsory training for judges and juries in cases of sexual violence and education about consent in schools. However, the case in Cork is not an isolated example. Victim-blaming and misogyny are endemic in the court system, the state and in society generally under a capitalist system which has sexism and inequality at its core. We need to build a movement of women, young and LGBTQ people and all sections of the working class around an anti-capitalist and socialist-feminist programme which challenges this system and all the injustices it perpetuates.
The post #ThisIsNotConsent: Victim-blaming in rape trial provokes mass anger appeared first on Socialist Party (Ireland).
By James McCabe
Whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s efforts to expose corruption in the local Garda force in Cavan was met with vicious reprisals from the national leadership of An Garda Síochána.
Misconduct and corruption are nothing new for the police force of this state, but even so, many were shocked to discover that the top echelons of the Gardaí conducted a widespread smear campaign of false accusations of child sexual abuse against McCabe. The findings of the Disclosures Tribunal, released in October, vindicated McCabe and heavily criticised the former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan.
Wall of silence
Evidence was presented that Callinan had told at least four people, including RTE’s Philip Boucher-Hayes, that McCabe was a sex-abuser. The tribunal was met with a wall of silence from the ranks of the Gardaí, however. The tribunal sent letters to 430 individuals of different ranks to gather evidence and received only two replies.
Many pundits in the media have spoken about how justice has been served by this Tribunal and that it will work to “restore faith in the Gardaí”. There’s a constant rewriting of history by the corporate and state sponsored media in Ireland. In the mid-1970s, Amnesty International demanded an independent inquiry into sections of the Gardaí due to the regular use of beatings and torture methods by members of the force to extract confessions from suspects.
In recent years, we’ve seen a litany of Garda scandals, from the spying on water protestors through Operation Mizen, the bugging of GSOC, the secret taping of phone calls between arrested persons and their solicitors and of course the Jobstown frame-up. Apart from the scandals and corruption, the establishment would have us believe that the Gardaí and other state institutions, despite their defects, generally exist and act to serve the best interests of the public and “stand above” politics.
Role of Gardaí
The mask of political and class neutrality slipped in Frederick Street, Dublin back in September. Here we witnessed masked Gardaí protecting balaclava-wearing private security guards as they forcibly removed peaceful protestors occupying a vacant apartment which was owned by a major landlord who owns over forty commercial properties.
The police watched on as the injured housing activists were dragged out of the property by the private security, who left in a van which had been illegally parked and had no tax or insurance certs displayed on it. This example highlights the reality that in the last analysis, the Gardaí, the courts, the judges and the unaccountable, highly-paid top civil servants of this state all represent the interests of the capitalist system.
To much fanfare, the media have trumpeted the Disclosures Tribunal’s view that former Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, apparently had nothing to do with the smear campaign against McCabe. O’Sullivan has been absolved on this issue, but her tenure as Garda Commissioner was anything but a model of political and economic impartiality. O’Sullivan is alleged to have asked an interviewee for the position of Deputy Commissioner in 2015 as to their opinion on “left-wing political extremism in Ireland.”
The major problem with the Gardaí isn’t confined to a bad ‘management culture’ or certain immoral individuals in the leadership. In many ways these problems stem from the fact that the Gardaí are a force that exist to defend the super-rich and corporations. To transform the role of policing, we must fight for the creation of a community-controlled policing organisation that is genuinely run, controlled and accountable to working-class communities.