The issue of how sexual assault cases are tried on the island of Ireland is something that has been bugging me for awhile. I studied Neuroscience in UCD so I lack in the area of law. What I don’t lack is a sense of horror at how the victim at the centre of the Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding allegations and court case is being treated.

This woman has had her underwear and the clothes she was wearing on the night of the alleged rape shown to the jury. It baffles me that in this day and age we are still conversations about the clothes victims are wearing when they are sexually assaulted. Wearing a certain kind of  underwear is not an invitation to rape, it’s not an invitation to anything. Frankly, it’s an invitation to wear whatever underwear you like and not be raped on a night out.

A defence lawyer’s job is to use any means necessary to get their client off, I can understand that. What I cannot understand is why showing the clothes of the victim to the jury is necessary. Not only does it wrongly shame the victim but it disincentivizes any other potential victim of sexual assault from coming forward to report an assault.

If you’re a victim of a sexual assault, what do you gain from reporting? You get to have your entire sexual history dissected in front of 12 strangers and a court. You get to have every sexual encounter you’ve ever had questioned, looking for a motive or a reason why you might be lying. You get to have every horrible aspect of rape culture thrown at you under the guise of a legal defence.

‘How much did you drink?’ ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘Do you like throwing yourself at celebrities?’  ‘How often do you have sex?’ ‘How often do you have sex with strangers?’

I’ve a question of my own. How often are we going to keep having these conversations? When are we going to treat victims of sexual assault with basic human decency? When will the system stop re-traumatising the victim?

Rachel O’Neill – Editor