Life

A woman’s underwear has been used as evidence in a rape trial – again

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Susan Devaney
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The defence lawyer of a man accused of rape told the jury to consider the woman’s “thong with a lace front”. 

Recently, there have been two common occurrences in high profile rape cases in the UK: women’s sexual histories, and their clothing, being used as evidence of sexual consent.

Now a court case in Ireland has followed suit, with lawyers asking the jury to consider the female teenage claimant’s choice of underwear as evidence in a rape trial.

On Wednesday 7 November, a 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old woman in County Cork. The jury – comprising of eight men and four women – reached a unanimous verdict after deliberating for an hour and a half.

During the trial, the jury heard how after a night out the woman told the man “you raped me”, to which he replied “no, we just had sex”, according to the Irish Examiner

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News reports reveal that, when being cross-examined by Tom Creed SC for the prosecution, the defendant told the jury that the pair had walked up a lane and were lying down in a muddy area. He further described how he struggled to become fully erect, and was unsure if they’d had intercourse.

He testified: “Then she [the complainant] was getting funny, it was like she snapped out of a buzz. She said stop and I stopped. We were going to have sex, she said stop and I stopped.”

In response, Creed said: “A witness saw you with your hand to her throat.” But the defendant responded by saying that the witness had misread the situation.

The prosecution questioned the defendant over the allegation that he had dragged the woman over 30 metres to the area where the alleged rape occurred, to which he replied: “[I] didn’t drag anyone anywhere.”

At the end of the trial, in her closing speech, Elizabeth O’Connell SC of the defence, appeared to suggest to the jury that the woman’s choice of lacy underwear could indicate that sex was consensual.

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.”

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Creed responded by telling the jury that it was “quite clear she did not consent” and said she [the complainant] had “never had sexual intercourse before”.

Since the verdict was delivered, Sexual Violence Centre Cork took to Twitter to call out the use of the woman’s clothing in the courtroom as evidence, saying: “Legal counsel use these tactics to defend their clients, they know what will hold sway in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion, they know that clothing does not incite rape, they play on the myths.”

Several women have responded in a similar manner on social media. 

“A 17 year old girl’s underwear was considered fair game at a rape trial. In 2018. In Ireland,” another tweeted. 

If you, or anyone you know, wants support or information regarding rape or sexual assault, please visit the Rape Crisis website here or the Women’s Aid website here.

Images: Unsplash / Twitter

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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