Teenage girl's underwear considered as evidence against her in rape trial, sparking fury among campaigners

‘You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front,’ says barrister 

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Friday 09 November 2018 14:09
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The head of a Dublin rape charity says she is not surprised by the focus placed on the girl’s underwear
The head of a Dublin rape charity says she is not surprised by the focus placed on the girl’s underwear

A teenager’s underwear has been used against her in an alleged rape case in Cork, sparking outrage among campaigners.

The barrister representing a man acquitted of raping a teenager in the city in southwest Ireland suggested the jury in the case should reflect on the underwear worn by the 17-year-old girl.

The 27-year-old man – who had denied raping the woman in a lane in Cork – was found not guilty by the jury of eight men and four women at the Central Criminal Court.

In her closing address, senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell told the jury they should have regard for the fact the woman was wearing a thong with a lace front, according to The Irish Examiner.

“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,” she said.

Noeline Blackwell, the head of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said she was not surprised by the focus placed on the teenage girl’s underwear.

“The reference to the girl’s underwear and the assumption and inference that the jury was being invited to draw – that because she was dressed like that she was asking for sex – does not surprise us,” she said.

“We accompany people to court and the whole time we see rape stereotypes used to discredit complainants and to enforce elements of the defendant’s case.”

Ms Blackwell, a human rights lawyer, argued that juries were influenced by stereotypes around rape that permeate society and called for there to be more judicial direction to mitigate this.

In her closing speech, Ms O’Connell argued the incident had been consensual.

The issue of consent dominated the case, with the girl telling the man: “You just raped me,” and the man saying: “No, we just had sex.”

Arguing for the prosecution, Tom Creed SC told the jury: “She is quite clear she did not consent. She said she never had sexual intercourse before.”

Critics have lashed out at the barrister’s remarks about her underwear on social media – accusing her of victim blaming.

“Can’t get over this barrister asking jury to reflect on a teen’s underwear and if her lace thong suggested she was ‘open’ to meeting someone,” an editor at The Irish Times tweeted. “Wondering what kind of underwear suggests a man is ‘open’ to meeting someone? Any legal experts know? Appalling.”

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