Man who sexually assaulted woman on street tells police: ‘It’s her fault, she should have covered up’

'Consent is not given in the way someone dresses. The defence is archaic in suggesting this man has the right to act on his own sense of entitlement and nothing else,' says senior lecturer in criminology 

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Monday 11 November 2019 15:55
Man who sexually assaulted woman on street tells police:‘It’s her fault, she should have covered up’

A man found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman on the street told police the woman should have “covered up” and defended himself by boasting he was “tall and handsome”.

Richard Duncan was spotted grabbing a woman’s bottom after she left a night club in Dublin in Ireland in February 2017.

The victim, who was a medical student in her twenties, had been cat-called by him earlier in the evening but was too frightened to challenge him, according to the Irish Independent.

“He said to me as he was walking by ‘you’re looking well’, or something like that,” the woman said.

She and a friend ran into Duncan as they went back into the club half an hour later – with the victim saying the 42-year-old “grabbed at me just above my bum”.

The victim, who had never met Duncan before the night, said: “I told him something along the lines of ‘Go away’, I was taken aback, I wasn’t expecting it to happen, I was upset”.

Detective Garda Orla Moynihan said: “I observed him grab the backside and buttocks of the female in a red dress”.

She said Duncan “told us to f*** off and we only work for Denis O’Brien” when gardai, Ireland’s police service, went over to him.

“It’s her own fault, she had nothing on. Not my fault, she didn’t complain. I’m tall and handsome, women are chasing me. She should have covered up,” Duncan, who was taken to a garda station, told police.

The victim ended up pulling the statement she had given to the police, saying she had to prioritise university work over any prosecution.

But the woman, whose identity has not been revealed, did end up providing evidence in the case which saw Duncan found guilty of sexual assault. Duncan pleaded not guilty.

Jane Monckton Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology who is a former police officer, condemned Duncan’s response and hit out at the wider issue of victim-blaming.

“There are so many issues raised by this short exchange,” the University of Gloucester academic told The Independent.

“The police officer did absolutely the right thing sending a message to predatory men that they cannot just grab people without their consent. Consent is not given in the way someone dresses. The defence is archaic in suggesting this man has the right to act on his own sense of entitlement and nothing else.”

Dr Monckton-Smith, who specialises in coercive control, homicide and stalking, added: “The woman was intimidated both at the time, and in feeling she didn’t want to make a statement. Women should feel safe in public and in private. The intimidation she felt is a reflection of the way women are too readily blamed for assaults on them, and fear of the aggression or further assault they might experience.

“The same defences are given in cases of rape. They are not acceptable, the behaviour is not acceptable, and this man should have pleaded guilty and reflected on his actions. Victim blaming does not reduce danger and threat it increases it.”

Duncan disappeared during the trial after being in custody for a week but was then arrested.

The judge at Dublin District Court released Duncan on bail but will not sentence him until next year.

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