Yesterday’s verdict of a court case investigating a rape crime which occurred in 2016, acquitted all four defendants (Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison) finding them not guilty of all charges. In the wake of this news, all I wanted to do was cry. That and the constant urge I had to punch something repeatedly. I am simply and utterly heart-broken. My heart is aching for the victim – this poor girl, who not only has had to relive this nightmare for the whole country to see, but who’s worst fears of not being believed in the eyes of the system have become a reality. My heart is hurting for every girl who has ever been a victim of rape, or any kind of sexual assault who feels like there is no place for her voice, for her story, for her truth to be told.
It only takes a glimpse at the evidence in this case, to understand why this verdict is horrifying – no ifs, whats or buts. What this verdict says to Irish women, is that regardless of what you have been put through, regardless of all the evidence and fact you can provide – your truth is only going to be measured against who you accuse. So, when are we going to stop making women feel that by speaking up, they are already fighting a lost case? How is it that this is the Ireland we live in at 2018? Naturally, I am hurt, angry, and dissapointed – but I am unfortunately in no way shocked. Women have become beyond used to being let down by our governments. Our governments, who seem to forget that they represent us too, and that we represent over half of their people. Women have become accustomed to being given the short end of the stick, but we have also grown tired and beyond fed up with it. Now, more than ever, we are determined to make that clear. The biggest thing to show for it, is that despite the fear, despite the odds of going up against Ulster rugby, this woman spoke out and stood up for herself. Regardless of the insane verdict – I want to applaud her. I want to thank her, for giving a voice to millions of other women who did not feel they could be as brave as her.
Yesterday was supposed to be a day of rejoice. It was supposed to be a day that reassured every girl that her voice is vital. That her voice is believed in the world – at least in this country. While the outcome of that verdict might mean are voices our not believed, in no way are they not heard. We are screaming at the top of our lungs and we are fighting, and you can feel the power in our voices. Since the verdict, social media has been ablaze. This one woman has single-handedly woke up the voices of so many other women and men. We are not just discussing her story and her pain, but our own. We are sharing our stories, fighting those who are trying to imply that this a case of one woman, falsely accusing men who represent this country in sport. This is a nearly every woman case. This is the case of millions of women and men around our country. This is about more than some stupid sport. This is about how we have come to prioritise sports and lavish careers above the health and well-being of our most vulnerable in society. I simply cannot fathom, how the defendants can get a minute of sleep, fully aware and knowing, that they have ruined a woman’s life, in order to save their careers. This thought alone cost me my entire night’s sleep last night.
I spent my day today questioning everyone and everything around me. I questioned the people in my life, where they stand on this issue. I questioned every passer by, if they too were a wicked behind the smile they gave on the street. I questioned the guy I sat next to on the bus, if he was another example of “lad” culture. I questioned the girl I saw in the shop, if she was ever hurt too, or if she couldn’t care less about the trial or the verdict. I questioned my safety. I questioned my government, and I questioned this country – if it was ever as great and as equal as I thought it to be. Is it enough that we are seen to be equal than most? Is that even important if in something as serious as this, we are not equal at all?
Yesterday showed that if a woman is raped in Ireland, she is not believed. If a woman were to get pregnant as a result of rape, this country would also, by law, force her to carry that baby to term. If that verdict has one positive impact, I hope it is that it heaves support for repealing the 8th amendment. I hope this makes us, as a country, realise just how little women are valued in Irish society. I hope it makes us understand why women need to have a say and a choice in the things that concerns them – we have been robbed of it for far too long. Even in our history, in our independence, the work of women such as the Irish Suffragettes has been wiped out of our books and school education to make way for the big, bold men and all their glory and power. Our time was then, but they never let us shine. Our time is now, and we are the ones emitting our own light.