Tara Brown, Project Coordinator for the It Stops Now campaign, spoke at a Dublin rally today to protest against victim-blaming and legal shortcomings for survivors of sexual violence in Ireland.
Making international headlines, #ThisIsNotConsent rallies took place in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway in the wake of comments about the underwear worn by a young woman in Cork made during the trial against the man accused of her rape. In the closing arguments of the case, a female barrister for the defence referred the jury to the underwear worn by the women, aged just 17, on the night she was assaulted. The barrister questioned whether the underwear showed "the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone".
In response, the socialist feminist movement, ROSA, and member of the Irish government, Ruth Coppinger TD, organised protests to call for an end to these kinds of victim-blaming attitudes, both in legal proceedings and in wider society. Hundreds of people took to the streets to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and lend their support to the movement for change.
Addressing the crowd in Dublin, Tara Brown stated that the type of clothes a victim is wearing in an experience of sexual violence should not determine justice. She added that "fear, self-blame and a lack of effective legal sanctions" prevent women from seeking support, with comments like those made in this case wrongly turning the attention and onus on the survivor rather than on the perpetrator.
Tara called for the legal system to live up to its responsibility of creating a safe, supportive and effective means of justice for survivors of sexual violence, noting that significant reforms are necessary to make this change. She also referenced the need for wide societal and cultural change, recommending actions such as the introduction of guidance and briefings for juries to end the inclusion of rape myths and tropes in criminal proceedings.
Representatives of the Union of Students in Ireland also spoke at the rally, calling for improved, inclusive sex education for students which places consent at its core.
For more on #ItStopsNow campaign at the #ThisIsNotConsent rallies, see coverage from: