This post was first published in the “This is Odd!” section of the DublinEventGuide.com on 31 March 2018, hence some references to that and also the spam filter circumvention as described below.
First of all, please note that I can’t risk using the word ra pe in its proper spelling, because otherwise spam filters will not let this mail through, so instead I will use “Rp” wherever that word should appear. I am sure you will be able to work with that.
I have to admit that writing about the Rp Trial in Belfast is not a cheery subject in the slightest and you could say that it has nothing to do with events or with Dublin, but first of all the “This is Odd!” section in the Dublin Event Guide is an opinion section where I don’t just stick to Dublin or event themes and secondly, I think what happened and the emotional response to it is just to huge to ignore it.
BUT, I don’t intend to discuss the trial and its outcomes. Instead there is something much more important and that is what will we take from it and how will we change our attitudes going forward.
A quick reprise: Two years ago at a sort of party, a then 19 year old women experienced something that she called Rp (see first paragraph to understand what “Rp” means). The four men that were involved – and yes there was more than one – claimed all was consensual. The trial was done in front of a jury and after 8 days that jury decided that the men were not guilty and at the same time they implied with that that the women was telling lies.
The result is that the men walk free, the women involved not get any form of emotional “compensation” for having to go through the trial and the majority of women observing feel (rightly) that not much is done to protect or support them if they every had to experience Rp and therefore many women would probably never report it. A really bad outcome.
I didn’t follow the trial in detail and therefore don’t know all that was said by all sides, but I did read the What’s App and text message exchange between the four men and just based on that, I judge them as chauvinistic low lifes who definitely are capable of what they were accused of. There should be consequences for them, but unfortunately I can also see why the trial did result in an acquittal.
We have heaps of examples where very clear trials came to very unexpected results. OJ Simpson’s murder trial in 1994 is a perfect example. Everyone expected that he would be found to be the murder of his wife, but he was acquitted by a jury. Another example is the trial against Oscar Pistorius in South Africa. He shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2014 and claimed that he thought she was an intruder. Nearly everyone was convinced that he is guilty of murder, but a judge sentenced him to just 5 years in prison. And there are lots more cases as shocking and surprising as these. A lawyer friend of mine always said that “in court and at sea you are in god’s hand”. I would say “in court and at sea everything and anything can happen” and very very often it is not justice that is the result of a trial.
Many think that a trial in front of a jury is fairer, I totally disagree! I would rather have some professionals to decide my fate if I am innocent, but if I am guilty I would love to have a jury. Jury’s are randomly selected, but heavily influenced and influencable individuals with no expertise in assessing evidence and judging a difficult scenario. And if they have the SLIGHTEST doubt they will judge against the accusation. This is what happened here, in my opinion.
The outcome might have acquitted the men, but there is a HUGE difference between “not guilty” and “innocent”. The jury might have decided that they are not guilty of Rp, but that doesn’t mean AT ALL that they are innocent. Their Social Media/mobile phone exchanges shows that they are despicable chauvinistic low lifes and unfortunately the acquittal will turn them worse. I read that they now will sue people of libel (damaging their reputation).
The trial outcome is what it is, but what should we do now? How should we react to it?
In my opinion, the four men should be kicked out of the Irish and Ulster Rugby team with immediate effect just based on the Social Media/mobile phone exchange alone. This is not the way men should be allowed to talk about women and the sports teams have a responsibility to make that VERY VERY clear. We can’t have young people looking up to scum like that.
Secondly, we have to make clear that this one case does not mean that all other cases will be decided in the same way. Rosa Parks who – as a black woman – refused to give up her seating in the white section of a bus was the trigger for a societal change. Maybe or hopefully the victim from the Belfast Rp Trial will influence today’s society’s attitude to chauvinists and male low lifes as well!
And thirdly, I think we have to make a significant change in the current education of society. In the context with the #MeToo campaign and for education going forward, the “No means No” principle emerged and is quoted in many places also in connection with this trial. I feel this is a totally inappropriate principle. Sure it is better than what many women have experienced until now, but the only principle we should base our education (for all ages!) on is “Only YES gives you the right”.
It’s like this: It is not just a RED light that tells you to stop at a traffic light. A yellow light also doesn’t give you the automatic right to race ahead. ONLY the green light allows you to proceed. Our focus has to be on making clear that only a clear YES will give the right to proceed. And if it is not a CLEAR “Yes”, for example because alcohol is involved, then there can’t be a “I assumed it was ok to go ahead”.
Oh and two other things: I know one man, a Rugby fan, who celebrated the acquittal of the four and who wrote on Facebook that he knew they were innocent and he can’t wait until they are “in the green jersey again”. Sorry, Sir, you have NO clue how people that you don’t know personally behave behind closed doors and your ignorance and arrogance is disgusting.
And lastly: There are good guys out there who would NEVER talk like that about women and who would never treat them in a disrespectful way. I know PLENTY of them! Ladies, please don’t assume that we all are scum! But also, guys, if you hear other guys talk about women like the four from Belfast OR if you come across any disrespectful behaviour towards women or anybody else, please be a man and stand up for the badly treated person!