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The careers of rugby players cannot be prioritised over rape victims, argues Comment Editor Alex Goodwin

‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is all well and good until the system fails rape victims. A jury of eight men and three women deliberated for 3 hours and 45 minutes, coming to the decision that Irish rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were not guilty of raping a 19-year-old female in the summer of 2016.

As I write this article, my blood is boiling. First of all, the anonymous female was trialled for eight days on the stand (yes, eight!) whilst the four accused men were only trialled for a few hours each. The woman’s underwear was passed around the courtroom as she had to sit there, visibly distraught, and recount what had happened that fateful night.

WhatsApp messages amongst the men not only implied non consensual sex but were also wholly degrading and downright disgusting

It has been reported there is a lack of evidence to support the claim. However, a doctor took to the stand to state that when the female sought help after the assault, she had a vaginal laceration, caused by trauma, that was still bleeding days after the attack. Whilst I’m no doctor, I am a female that has partaken in consensual sex, and I have never sustained an injury of that kind. That is not the injury of a woman consenting to sexual relations with a man that respects her or her body. The doctor from the Sexual Assault Referral Centre also stated the woman had bruises present on her arm, knee and leg. However, these injuries only tell us that intercourse had taken place – not that is wasn’t consensual.

The woman in question was nervous and unsure about whether to report the incident due to the accused being known and respected public figures in Belfast, however, the doctor and her friend convinced her that she should. She has continued to remain anonymous, stumping misogynist trolls trying to accuse her of using the allegation for five-minutes of fame.

The story gets worse however, as damning WhatsApp messages amongst the men not only implied non consensual sex but were also wholly degrading and downright disgusting.

A friend messaged Olding: ‘Any sluts get f*cked?’ before the other men bantered with each other about the events. ‘There was a lot of spit roast last night’ wrote Jackson. ‘It was like a merry-go round at the carnival’ responded Olding.

You really have to wonder what evidence is necessary in order to determine the event was non consensual, because apparently, three men having sex with one much younger female, said woman being hysterical and developing anxiety and sustaining injuries over the incident – followed by messages insinuating foul play – are not enough.

When will it be enough?

Similarly, whilst the whole idea of a jury is to ascertain completely impartial judgement, eight men to three women in a trial that requires female understanding of such incidences was unacceptable. Unfortunately, women are low on Ireland’s priority list and rugby is high, so the outcome is hardly shocking. I love Ireland and a lot of what they stand for, but I will not defend my Irish blood when it comes to the nation’s legal treatment of women. Remember, had the victim gotten pregnant, she would not have been able to receive a legal abortion.

Women are low on Ireland’s priority list and rugby is high, so the outcome is hardly shocking

As a rugby fan, I pray the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster make the right decision when reviewing the future careers of the Jackson and Olding. Rape culture must not continue to be normalised to the extent that this trial has frustratingly presented. As a representative of your country, there is an obligation to set an example. The accused have lost this privilege. I hope they face the consequences in their career that the court failed to achieve on a legal level.

Boys will not be boys.

4th year Political Science and International Relations student (@alexgoodwin_)



Published

3rd April 2018 at 9:00 am



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