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Image / Editorial

Clothing worn by victims of sexual assault featured in ‘Not Consent’ protest exhibition


by Jennifer McShane
29th Nov 2018
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There were cries of protest on an international level earlier this month when comments made about an alleged victim’s underwear were used in a Cork rape trial. To the outrage of women in Ireland and around the world, the accused was acquitted. Senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell, who defended her 27-year-old client over the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl, made the initial comments in line with her defence and was accused of victim-blaming.

That she blamed the young victim for an apparent assault based on her choice of clothing is undeniable. “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” she asked. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

#ThisIsNotConsent trended with women taking to social media in solidarity; protesting in fury and posting images of their underwear in support. Coverage of the protest went global with media outlets around the world reporting on the story.

Related: Cork rape trial: How on Earth can a man control himself when faced with a hint of lace?

To continue to make a stand of protest against the way rape cases are handled in Irish courts, clothing worn by rape victims at the time of their attacks have gone on display as part of a protest exhibition in Dublin.

The items in the ‘Not Consent’ collection are currently on display in city centre bar, Street 66, all only have one common link: that they were clothes worn at the time of the assault.

Leona O’Callaghan, whose own childhood attacker was recently jailed for 17 years, attended the exhibition, as per the Irish Examiner, affirmed that there was no pattern to the display because “clothes do not matter.”

“The only common thread between all the outfits on display today, we had communion dresses, we had lingerie, we had boxer shorts, the only common thread is that the person who attacked us while we were wearing them were rapists, there is no other common thread,” she said.

Related: ‘I’ve worn four different outfits while being sexually assaulted’  

Hazel Larkin, from Action Against Sexual Violence Ireland, said the collection was designed to challenge the “dominate cultural narrative” around consent.

“We really need to stand up and say ‘no more, enough’,” she added.