#ThisIsNotConsent: Why A Girl's Underwear Has Triggered Protests Across Ireland

"Nobody asks to be raped. And it's never the victim's fault."

A disputed sexual assault incident has rocked the country of Ireland after a 27-year-old man was unanimously found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old girl. Protests erupted all over the country upon the verdict which came after the defence attorney said in her closing statements that the accuser had been wearing a pair of lacy underwear, or thongs.

According to the Irish Examiner, defence attorney Elizabeth O’Connell said,

“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.”

After deliberating for one-and-a-half hours, the jurors—eight men and four women—unanimously found the man not guilty of rape.

ireland protest

Courtesy: Twitter/@normaburke

In the Irish parliament, lawmakers displayed lacy undergarments to highlight how clothes were used against women in courts to blame the victims for coming out. Prime Minister Leo Vardarkar also called such defences “absolutely reprehensible” and responded,

“Nobody asks to be raped. And it’s never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter where you went, who you went with, or what you took — whether it was drugs or alcohol.”

Simultaneous protests were held across several cities in Ireland, with demonstrators spreading undergarments on the steps of the courthouse in Cork where the trial took place. On social media, people protested by posting pictures of laced underwear with #ThisIsNotConsent, emphasising that ‘no means no’

In the aftermath of the protests, a government review of rape trial procedures is underway.