Yesterday was a sad day for rape victims. The jury returned a not guilty verdict in the Belfast Rape case brought against 4 Ulster & Ireland rugby players. (I can’t even bring myself to type their names). I was sitting in a coffee shop on my lunch when I heard the news, and honestly I felt sick reading about it. Not only that, but I felt angry, and afraid. You might think that’s a bit dramatic, but rest assured it’s a scary time to be a woman in Ireland.
Regardless of whether people believe the men did it or not, the way they treated the woman, and spoke about her in their group chat afterwards was downright disgusting. Their behaviour towards another human being despite being “guilty” or “not guilty” was horrible. These men should not be celebrated. It’s clear as day their attitude to women is vile, one only has to read the excerpts from their Whatsapp messages to know that.
What’s even more concerning is seeing so many grown men (and women) celebrate this ‘win’ and vilify the girl further on social media. Some of the comments I’ve read in the wake of all this is not only disgusting, but frightening. I don’t want to draw more attention to the filth that’s going around by reposting it here, but a quick glance on Twitter and Facebook and the contempt is plain for all to see.
This girl did everything right. She was raped. She went to a clinic afterwards, she reported it. She stood up for herself, she did all of the right things. And yet. She spent 9 weeks reliving her ordeal, having her life ripped apart and scrutinised, every past sexual encounter analysed. She was slut shamed, accused of lying for attention, you name it.
We need to remember that the grounds to convict for rape beyond reasonable doubt are astronomical. Not guilty, does not mean innocent. Innocent is not the opposite of guilty in the context of a courtroom. That’s why it’s “beyond a reasonable doubt”. That’s why women go through all of this and still end up without a conviction, it does not mean they aren’t telling the truth. So many rapes go unreported, and what’s heartbreaking is so many more women will refrain from coming forward after yesterday’s verdict.
I was feeling such anguish yesterday, I can only imagine what the victim herself is feeling. I felt so helpless, heartbroken for her, and so very ashamed of the system. I decided to pen these emotions into the below poem. I just hope one day we can start doing better.
They took turns treating her like a piece of meat.
She bravely faced them in court.
But today, justice was met with defeat.
What’s this they said “she got spit roasted?”
Sure last night was “hilarious” “love
Belfast sluts”, they boasted.
Meanwhile she’s broken, bruised, in tears and afraid
Hoping and praying that soon the ordeal, from her memories will fade.
“No one will believe me, sure it’s their word against mine”
“I won’t report it, I’ll forget it, move on, it will be fine”.
Somehow she found the strength to go on and peruse,
Not knowing that 8 men & 3 women would not believe it to be true
9 weeks she spent cross examined under fire
3 hours it took, to deem her a liar.
The Island of Ireland has had its say
The boys are innocent! she’s a slut!
Let’s call it a day.
Only they’re not, she isn’t, and it’s not good enough
Getting a rape conviction should never be this tough.
It doesn’t matter who she slept with today yesterday or before,
For this she did not consent, she did not ask for.
She was vilified, discredited and torn asunder.
“80% of rape victims don’t report”
It’s no wonder.
The jury suspected reasonable doubt
But I stand by her, I believe her, and to that I will shout.
I want her to know she’s not alone,
Love and solidarity from her fellow sisters, will always be shown.