Further to my thoughts posted earlier in the week on Instagram, I wanted to talk about consent in Ireland and #IBelieveHer. It was really moving to hear from so many friends about what I had written, and I realised a lot of them could relate to it in some way or another. I can tell you now that it was a lot of girls who wrote to me, which is a difficult thing to accept, but not surprising at all in our culture. If you didn’t see my post this was it:

Despite the verdict of this infamous Paddy Jackson case and despite whatever actually happened that night – let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of cases that don’t see the light of day in court for whatever reason OR the amount of incidents that some victims never dare say out loud for their entire lives. If that doesn’t make your skin crawl to think about and you’re still more concerned about feeling sorry for these poor lads, then you are sick in the head.

So, to all the dumb people online saying horrible things about the girl who accused these rugby players of raping her – you can be sure that is happening all the time, all over the world and maybe even to someone you know. If you are SO fascinated by this case that you have time to Tweet that she is an ‘attention seeking slut’ when all you know about the case is facts fed to you by the media, and if you are so concerned about justice being served – then go put some energy into educating the younger generation about consent and teaching boys that no means NO. Reluctant and uncomfortable means NO. Asleep means NO. Out-of-her-mind means NO. Unconscious means NO. ‘Not now or I don’t want to, does not mean ‘convince me’.

Instead of educating girls on what not to wear, how not to act, how little to drink or how they are not allowed be sexual or else they are ‘asking for it’… why can’t we drill into the minds of young boys that forcing a girl when she is hesitant or feeling up their friend when she is asleep IS WRONG and no one is ever ‘asking’ to be taken advantage of. #CONSENT IS SEXY, WHEN IN DOUBT ‘ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO’ WILL GIVE YOU THE ANSWER YOU NEED. IF SHE’S NOT INTO IT: STOP BEING A FUCKING CREEP!

Over the past few days, there has been a lot of talk about consent in Ireland. It’s kind of sad that it takes something big like this to get people angry. We should be angry all the time at what’s happening to women and girls (and boys). But one thing people need to understand is that we are not just angry at the verdict of this case, we are angry at the mindset in this country that ‘lads will be lads’. #IBelieveHer is so much bigger than this case, it is an extension of #MeToo and it is people just sick to death of women being taken advantage of and more importantly, men getting away with it.

Yes accusing someone of rape or sexual assault is a serious thing. Yes of course innocent people should not be punished for something they didn’t do. But it’s really sad to see such a public case, yet again, let a load of lads off the hook. Seeing the headline ‘Drunk consent is still consent’ made my stomach turn, because how is it possible that alcohol has been used to blame a woman when it is usually the excuse for men when they cheat, abuse and rape? ‘But sure he was drunk, it doesn’t count, he’s not usually like that’. 

#IBelieveHer and the rallies across Ireland yesterday are about women and men coming together to say that there is clearly an imbalance in society and that we want something to do be done about it. I saw many fantastic posts online and I think this was one of the best that sums up the issue at hand:

 

Dear People Who Are Missing the Point about #IBelieveHer Facebook Post

 

This case unfortunately sends a message to the younger generation that it is ok to speak about other humans the way that these boys did – and that as long as you’re a white privileged male, you will probably get away with it in Ireland. No wonder people don’t come forward when something traumatic happens to them, and no wonder people get away with it time and time again. I thankfully am surrounded by good men who I know not only would never take advantage of a girl, but have even intervened dodgy situations like that of the Jackson case. 

We need the many many good men out there to stand up for our girls and to not tolerate ‘locker room chat’ or in today’s world ‘Whatsapp group chat’. Younger boys need to be taught to protect their friends and sisters and when they see something that is not ok, to step in and do something about it. Not all men are creeps, not all women are innocent, but we all need to talk about boundaries and consent, in order to actually make an impact on the next generation.

If you have been living in a bubble and don’t really know what I’m talking about, watch The Hunting Ground on Netflix. It is extremely powerful and very upsetting, but it is real life. If you think that because it is based in America, that it is far from the realities of Ireland – you could not be more wrong. Another harrowing but important side of the story when it comes to rape, consent and the grey areas surrounding it – can be found in the book Asking for It by the brilliant Louise O’Neill which is set in Ireland. Despite being published in 2015, the book is eerily close to the facts of the Paddy Jackson case, which is worth a read for anyone who can’t seem to understand the victim’s side of the story. The reason this fictional story is so similar to what you have been hearing about in this case, is because this happens every single day and it is real life. 

So just because this one case determined these men not guilty in the eyes of the law, does not mean they were innocent, it does not mean she was lying, it does not mean girls are lying and it should not mean that other people can carry on mistreating and abusing others in this way.

Remember, even if you have been drinking, wearing your best dress and kissing a boy all night long, get into a bedroom and think oh dear, actually maybe I don’t want to take this any further- THAT IS OK. You can change your mind, you can say no, have the confidence, stand up for yourself, do not let anyone intimidate you or convince you that you want to. ‘Ah sure come on you were all over me earlier’, ‘you’re just a tease I’m gonna get blue balls now’ etc. etc., it is all evil and manipulative, do not let them win.

If you can, tell them to FUCK off, get the hell out of there and tell someone about it! I am speaking from experience both personally & from a depressing amount of stories I’ve heard from friends and friends of friends. If there’s any men reading this (doubtful, but anyway) watch this very simple explanation on consent, teach yourself, your younger brothers, ask your school to show it and demand that rape culture is diminished in this country.

If you are in trouble, please reach out to anyone (even me!) or to the following:

@DublinRCC 1800 77 8888
@Womens_Aid 1800 341 900
@SamaritansIRL 116 123/Text: 087 2609090