Protests erupted in Ireland Wednesday and women around the world took to Twitter posting photos of their thong underwear in response to the outcome of an explosive rape trial that saw a 27-year-old man acquitted of charges that he raped a 17-year-old girl.
Last week, a jury of eight men and four women cleared the man, who was not identified in news reports, of the charges, The Irish Examiner reported. Apart from the verdict, a defense strategy used by his lawyer, Elizabeth O’Connell, ignited outrage. At one point during the trial, O’Connell held a pair of the 17-year-old girl’s underwear up for jurors to look at. “You have to look at the way she was dressed,” O’Connell reportedly said. “She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
The outcry was swift and led by an Irish lawmaker, Ruth Coppinger, who held up a blue thong during a session of Parliament to protest what she saw as an example of “routine victim blaming.” Standing on the floor of Parliament, the BBC reported, Coppinger said, “It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here … how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?”
TD Ruth Coppinger holds up thong in Dáil to highlight rape trial where accused's defence remarked the 17-year-old complainant was wearing a thong https://t.co/8hekPuhHBu via @rtenews pic.twitter.com/HBmP14Esn7
— RTÉ (@rte) November 13, 2018
Coppinger’s demonstration quickly spread to social media and went viral, with women around the world posting photos of their thongs along with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.
I hear cameras cut away from me when I displayed this underwear in #Dáil. In courts victims can have their underwear passed around as evidence and it's within the rules, hence need to display in Dáil. Join protests tomorrow. In Dublin it's at Spire, 1pm.#dubw #ThisIsNotConsent pic.twitter.com/DvtaJL61qR
— Ruth Coppinger TD (@RuthCoppingerTD) November 13, 2018
Counsel for man acquitted of rape suggested jurors should reflect on underwear worn by the 17yo complainant. Following this wholly unacceptable comment, we are calling on our followers to post a picture of their thongs/knickers to support her with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent pic.twitter.com/ZkVU0GVAIN
— I Believe Her – Ireland (@ibelieveher_ire) November 10, 2018
— maireos (@maireos) November 13, 2018
Jurors in Cork were asked to consider the underwear a SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL was wearing when she was raped by a 27-year-old man.
— Courtney Peterson (@_courtneymaria) November 13, 2018
— Shubhangi // Repealist (@Repealist_) November 12, 2018
Meanwhile, women marched in the streets of cities and towns across Ireland carrying signs calling for reforms to rules governing rape trials. Coppinger was on hand at a rally in Dublin and posted photos on Twitter of demonstrators.
— Ruth Coppinger TD (@RuthCoppingerTD) November 14, 2018
Susan Dillon, the 40-year-old woman behind the #ThisIsNotConsent hashtag told BuzzFeed News, “Simply put, clothing is not consent. This kind of victim blaming is archaic and had no place in our court system.” She added, “We wanted something impactful that would draw attention to the issue hence the use of underwear.”
Read the full story at BuzzFeed.