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Northern Ireland Justice system fails rape victims, say women at Belfast rally

NEARLY 1,000 women rallied silently outside Laganside courts in Belfast today in protest at the judicial and media treatment of rape.

The demonstration in which “women came together to show solidarity” took place after the acquittal of four rugby players on charges relating to the alleged rape of a young woman.

The event was called by Reclaim the Night but supported by numerous other feminist groups including Reclaim the Agenda, Alliance for Choice Belfast, Belfast Feminist Network, sexual abuse counselling service Nexus and Women’s Aid. 

 

 

Organisers said the rally was needed because “there is a lot of anger and upset among women who have observed the treatment of the victim in this case and found it harrowing and re-traumatising.”

The media’s reporting had been “intrusive, salacious and biased,” they said, highlighting an “urgent need to have a compulsory comprehensive relationship and sexuality education programme in all schools which includes consent and toxic masculinity.”

Reclaim the Agenda’s Helen Crickard told the Morning Star the case proved that “the justice system has failed.”

“We’re calling for a whole review of how rape trials take place,” she said, noting that only around 3 per cent of prosecutions for the offence result in a conviction.

Despite disgraceful treatment of the woman at the heart of the case, feminist organisations had “held back from public protest” throughout the trial because of the risk of influencing the verdict, she said.

But “women often don’t come forward to report rape and this trial has highlighted why.”

Funding cuts mean there are no longer any rape crisis centres in Northern Ireland while the Rowan sexual assault referral centre is only open nine to five, so women in vulnerable situations often have nowhere to go to get advice and support, she said.

“The way this trial was reported in the media made a mockery of the whole thing. The verdict was not guilty: it was never going to be anything but not guilty because the system could not have found anything else.

“This is just the start,” she warned. “We’re not going to let this go.”

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