by Nikki Nuno
A rape case in Cork, Southwest Ireland took an unexpected turn when the defendant was found not guilty of raping the victim who happened to be wearing a thong. The defendant’s lawyer argued against the victim in consideration of her thong. The accused man’s lawyer, senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell, stated “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The defendant was acquitted by a jury of 8 men and 4 women, most of which felt the 17-year-old had consented to having sex in an alley with a 27-year-old man whom was a stranger to her. This controversial court decision has sparked an enormous outrage in Ireland’s republic. In Dublin, women have hung underwear on clotheslines along sidewalks. In Cork, protestors laid lingerie on the steps of the courthouse. Many people have sided with the young girl’s claim of rape, but why did the judicial branch have a different say? Why does a female’s choice of clothing decide whether her claim of rape is truthful or not? The Rape Crisis Network estimated that only 10% of rapes are ever reported, while only 1 in 40 cases receive an appropriate punishment. Cases like this are much more common than the public believes; an annual awareness day passes time and time again while the reason behind it usually goes unknown, causing cases like this to become a cycle in our judicial system. This day is known as Denim Day, Wednesday, April 24th, 2019, observed for sexual harassment awareness. In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court decision enraged women from the Italian Parliament, to the California Senate and Assembly, leading to the national event. An 18-year-old female was picked up for her first lesson with her 45-year-old driving instructor, taking her to a secluded area for instruction. He pulled her out of the car, wrestled one leg out of her jeans, and forcefully raped her, threatening her life if she told anyone. Once she returned home, she told her parents who supported her decision to take matters to court. He was promptly arrested and prosecuted, charged guilty of rape. However, he later appealed the case, centering the argument on “the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex”. The case went on to the Supreme Court, and within days, the perpetrator was released and the case was overturned. This case will forever be a reminder that it takes more than just speaking up to get the results wanted, especially when the judicial system is not in your favor, you need the courage to endure the possible counter attacks that await your accusations.
Through popular music, social media influencers and an under-educated adolescence that know no better than to follow sex stereotypes they see daily, the 21st century has been marked with rape culture. We need to stop waiting for things to change, silence needs to speak and violence needs to surrender. Each time you say or post a sexually controversial topic you open the door for thousands to think harassing behavior “isn’t a big deal”. This month you have the option to make a social statement and open a topic people don’t like to talk about with just a pair of jeans. Why not take up the opportunity?
Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men in America experience some form of unwanted sexual contact, don’t accept these statistics! Wear a pair of jeans on April 24th and open up the conversation of rape for people who want to ignore it and those who wish they were heard.