The terms used to refer to girls at the party and to sexual encounters were not what should be acceptable in 2018 when the struggle for equality between men and women is meant to have been won.
The level of conversation seemed more like the script from a bad porn movie than what you would expect from leading sportsmen.
A society that seems to worry an awful lot about men’s lives being ruined while having scant regard for the women whose lives are quietly ruined every day.
A reputation, it seems, is more valuable than a person’s dignity and humanity.
But while this verdict may have been the catalyst for the impromptu demonstrations, this wasn’t only about her.
It was about a broken system that all too often frames victims of rape and sexual assault as liars and opportunists, guilty of luring men into honeytraps or seeking to ruin their lives.
While this trial, those texts, and that cross examination may have inspired it, it’s about so much more and has sparked long overdue conversations on consent, misogyny, and how the justice system works for victims of sexual crime.It was about women saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ The jury for the Belfast rape trial was sworn in January 29th. More importantly, it shed a light on what victims of sexual crime are forced to endure in a courtroom setting.Over the nine weeks that followed, the public was treated to daily dispatches from the trial. Before she went to the police, the woman at the centre of the trial expressed concern about going up against the might of Ulster Rugby and worried that she would be viewed as a ‘stupid little girl now regretting it’.These predictions proved prophetic as she was put through eight days of cross-examination during which she was accused of misremembering details, deliberately withholding information and lying to save her own skin. She was accused of ‘watering down’ her knowledge of rugby.
She was told she had in fact invited herself along to the party. She was quizzed about fake tan stains on the trousers she wore that night.They were reminded of the men who groped them in nightclubs. The men who couldn’t conceive that women might have their own desires and boundaries, and that these might go beyond being ‘pumped’ and ‘roasted’. On Wednesday afternoon, the jury in the trial returned verdicts of not guilty for all four defendants.They left the courtroom as they entered nine weeks previously and were free to move on with their lives.Without a second thought, parents encouraged their sons to look up to the Ireland and Ulster Rugby players. With their flash cars, bling and nightclub antics, they are no longer universally regarded as males in whose footsteps the younger generation should be following. Rugby players are regarded as a superior set of individuals.