The rugby rape trial demonstrates that victims will be punished, but women will rise

After a young woman was raped by Ulster Rugby players, fans rallied in defense of the men. Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty, but women are fighting back in solidarity with the victim.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, “Our young men and… their families face the challenge of putting their lives back together after one of the most harrowing, high-profile court cases of recent years.”

Harrowing, indeed.

On Wednesday, March 28, a jury of nine men and three women found two Irish rugby players — Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding — not guilty of rape. A third, Blane McIlroy, was cleared of charges of exposing himself, and a fourth, Rory Harrison, of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. The trial had been scheduled for five weeks, but went on for nine, capturing the attention of the Irish public and sending a clear message to women: do not report.

The victim (who is entitled to lifelong anonymity in the press, in accordance with Irish law) did everything right. Despite her (prescient) fear that, as she told a friend, “It will be a case of my word against theirs… It will serve no purpose for me but be embarrassing… Ulster Rugby will vouch for their good character and I’ll just look like a stupid little girl,” she went to the police. She submitted to a medical examination, which found a laceration on her vaginal wall. According to Crown prosecution witness Dr. Janet Hall, “Any injury can occur, but vaginal wall injury is not common.” A DVD recording of the examination showed “a pool of blood,” according to Dr. Hall. Blood matching the victim’s was also found on a duvet cover, her jeans, and her underwear. She had bled for 14 hours. When asked by the prosecution whether a majority of victims would resist such a brutal attack, Dr. Hall said that an overwhelming majority do not.

In messages found on their phones, the defendants said things like: “It was like a merry go round at the carnival.” “We are all top shaggers.” “Love Belfast Sluts.” “Boys, did you lads spit roast lasses?” “What the f**k was going on. Last night was hilarious.” “Mate no jokes she was in hysterics, wasn’t going to end well.” “Really, f**k sake, did you calm her, where does she live?” “Aye, just threw her home then went back to mine.”

The taxi driver who took the victim — then 19-years-old —  home that night told the court, “The young woman definitely seemed very upset. She was crying/sobbing throughout the journey.” That same night, she texted two friends saying she had been raped.

What is a defense attorney to do with overwhelming forensic evidence of a vicious attack, witness testimony, and a client all but admitting guilt in messages to friends? Is an enthusiastic participant in a sex act likely going to be in “hysterics”? Is she going to text friends to say, “I got raped by three Ulster fucking rugby scum brilliant fucking night”? How to spin this?

The above questions are rhetorical. Unless you live in a utopia where men don’t feel entitled through fame, social position, or simple ownership of a penis, enabling you to bond with other penis-owners over the violation of women’s bodies (and if you do, please tell me where it is — I’ve got my bags packed), you know how this story goes: the victim is put on trial.

Despite the rarity of false rape allegations, women are afraid to come forward because, as this victim’s friend told counsel, “Of what’s happening in this room. It’s daunting, quite horrible, and you get blamed. It’s a distressing process.”

Women who come forward are consistently cast as having some ulterior motive — of grasping for money or instant fame. After “analyzing the voices” of Bill Cosby’s accusers, TJ Ward, CEO of Investigative Consultants International Inc, concluded, “It’s all about fame and money.” In December 2017, Donald Trump’s White House issued a statement saying the women who accused him of harassment and assault were on a “publicity tour” to spread their “false claims.” Samantha Geimer, who was 13-years-old when she was sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski in 1977, says she and her mother “were (treated) as lying golddiggers who were attacking poor unfortunate Roman,” the original judge in the case asking if Geimer was part of “a mother-daughter hooker team.”

The increasingly vocal “Men’s Rights Movement” (also known as “Men’s Rights Activists” or MRAs) claim that we live in a “gynocentric” culture, which “puts women on pedestals.” They paint women as neurotic and hysterical — just clever enough to manipulate men and fabricate lies to destroy their lives. They insist that women are perpetrators of sexual assault just as — if not more — often than men, and that at least half of rape accusations are false. Not surprisingly, numerous studies refute their claims.

In 2010, the CDC found that nearly one in five of American women had been raped, whereas for men it was one in 71, and that female victims are twice as likely as males to be injured during an assault. A 2005 Department of Justice study found that, between 1998 and 2002, 84 per cent of spousal abuse victims were female, while males made up 83 per cent of all spouse murderers.

What a pedestal.

But none of this stops MRAs from spreading their dangerously distorted version of reality. In 2014, Paul Elam, founder of one of the most popular MRA sites, claimed that A Voice for Men gets about 10,000 to 12,000 hits per day.

Even children are not immune. When, in 2011, 18 men and boys were charged in the gang rape of an 11-year old girl in Texas, a resident said in a town meeting:

“She lied about her age. Them boys didn’t rape her. She wanted this to happen. I’m not taking nobody’s side, but if she hadn’t put herself in that predicament, this would never have happened”.

In 2013, a 48-year-old teacher was given a 30-day jail sentence for raping his then 14-year-old student, who was described as being “older than her chronological age.” According to the judge, he had “suffered enough.” A 16-year-old girl who went to a party with some football players from Steubenville High School in 2012 was transported, undressed, photographed, and repeatedly sexually assaulted while incapacitated by alcohol. The boys mockingly documented the acts on Facebook, Twitter, and in text messages. Subsequent comments on Twitter included: “That whore was asking for it.” “This bitch was clearly drunk and a slut. Own up to your mistakes, bitch.” “So you got drunk at a party and two people take advantage of you, that’s not rape you’re just a loose drunk slut.”

A UK poll published in 2005 revealed that a third of British people felt women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped and that over a quarter believed a woman is at least partially responsible if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing. More than one in five held that same view if the woman had had many sexual partners, and more than a quarter said she was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk.

Apparently, this tradition holds strong today. Arthur Harvey QC, who was representing McIlroy during the trial, informed the victim she “had sex with a number of men after going to their home without an invitation,” and said, “You went up to a bedroom when there were girls down below. Any call that you would have made that night would have been heard.” He accused her of “moving from truth to untruth, or falsehood and self-delusion” and told her, “Your memory of the incident was either clouded by drink or clouded by an unwillingness to acknowledge what happened.” She was questioned by defense counsel for shifting to the third person, at times, when describing the events (a common reaction to dissociation from a traumatic event), as though she were “repeating something she had read.” Brendan Kelly, Jackson’s defense council, told the jury that the complainant had taken the morning after pill to convince her friends she had been raped, “to run the lie of the classic rape victim.” In response to the victim saying she was frozen in fear during the attack, Kelly asked the court: “What does frozen mean? Is it one of the lies? Is it a lie deployed to explain what happened?”

After reporting restrictions were lifted on Wednesday, the reported: “Jurors were unaware that there were photographs of additional blood on the sheets of Paddy Jackson’s bed, with the rugby player’s barrister saying he had ‘no intention of saying where the blood came from.’” The jury also hadn’t been told that Harrison sent a pornographic video of a “spit-roast” to Olding the day after the incident. Olding’s lawyer succeeded in withholding the fact that samples of his client’s semen had been found on the crotch of the young woman’s jeans from jurors, claiming it might create an “unfair suspicion.”

When it was announced Jackson and Olding were found not guilty, far too many men reacted as though their “boys” had scored another hard-fought victory against the opposing team. It just hadn’t happened on the rugby field this time… The gallery was packed with the defendants’ family and team members, as well as members of the public — many of whom cheered after verdict was announced. At a pub quiz night, team names included, “The Paddy Jackson Five” and “We’re All Top Shaggers.” At a rugby ball, an award was said to have been given to the man “most likely to pull a Paddy Jackson.” Malone Rugby Football Club is now conducting an internal investigation after a photo was shared online depicting two men with a trophy sandwiched between their legs, wearing name tags reading “Paddy Jackson” and “Stuart Olding” on their chests.

On Twitter, comments linked to the hashtag #IBelieveHim included such gems as: “Tip: Don’t eat shite or be a feminist kids.” “This false accuser remains unknown… how is that fair?” “Sorry if the outcome doesn’t fit your feminazi agenda, but these boys & their families deserve better.” “Turns out Paddy Jackson got off twice.” “I know far more deceitful, hatefilled [sic], down right cruel, manipulative women than I do men.”

A group of rugby fans has already managed to collect 6,640 signatures on their petition to reinstate Paddy Kackson and Stuart Olding in Ulster Rugby.

On Wednesday, the men’s supporters took out a full page ad in a local newspaper, (ironically) decrying the “reprehensible… extent of the social media backlash aimed at incriminating men unanimously acquitted of any crime,” adding, “We are fed up with the cyber persecution.”

Backlash against women demanding the rights of full citizenship tends to be dramatic and overblown, and usually includes some element of sexual violence. Think of MRAs’ call for mass spamming of an anonymous sexual assault reporting form, and the so-called “manosphere” calling for the “corrective rape” of feminists.

“Incels” (“involuntary celibates”) celebrated Elliot Rodger’s massacre as “…punishment for evil violence of feminists and liberals,” with one blogger writing:

“Any of you supporting attrocities [sic] like women’s suffrage, immodest clothing, child support/alimony, no ban on adultery, ban on prostitution, and a lack of female premarital chastity, all the things that drove this young man to be unable to find a girlfriend, are disgusting, horrible people and you created a culture where this is possible.”

Make an example of a woman; put all women in their place. Keep women scared; keep them in servitude.

But the women of Ireland aren’t cowed. Last Thursday, thousands protested in Belfast, Dublin, Cork, and Galway. They have been sharing pictures on social media under the hashtags #IBelieveHer, #WeStandWithHer, and #SueMePaddy — a reference to a threat Jackson’s lawyer made to sue Irish Senator Aodhan O’Riordain for questioning the outcome of the court case. A rally is scheduled to take place outside Ulster Rugby’s grounds in Belfast to coincide with the team’s next home match, on April 13th. A petition is circulating to combat the 21 per cent lower conviction rates for rape than any other crime in UK courts, demanding jurors in rape trials be given compulsory rape myth training. In a speech at the Dublin rally, fearless sex trade survivor and author, Rachel Moran, said:

“We are here because a young woman was treated like dirt, put on trial and torn apart in Belfast courts. Treated like she herself was in the dock, and she was; we all saw it. Nine straight weeks of allegations. Told she was delusional, accused of being a liar. Her bloodied underwear and clothes paraded in court, as if this were an indictment of her person, rather than of the persons who bloodied them. She was delivered shame, devastation, and life-long humiliation beyond words or measure.”

“No, I don’t want to get the police involved,” the victim said, “You know how that will turn out.” This woman — like so many others —  knew what she was up against. But the thousands who marched in solidarity with her, applauding her courage, demonstrate that it wasn’t in vain. It seems the “boys” have awoken the sisterhood.

Agnes Robakiewicz is a sex industry survivor and journalism student in Detroit, Michigan, USA. She has a motorcycle, which is awesome.

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  • Jani

    Thank you Agnes for writing such a powerful article.

    • Agnes Robakiewicz

      Thank you! Meghan was so kind and patient through the editorial process, it’s an honor 😉

      • Meghan Murphy

        Thanks for your hard work, Agnes!

        • Agnes Robakiewicz

          Thank you!

  • Blazewarrior

    Very pleased that numerous Irish women are fighting back and refusing to be cowed by innumerable women-hating males who all openly support/condone male sexual predation upon women and girls. As usual the women-hating males in this court case have outed themselves as the ‘real sluts’ because their texts show their behaviour is exactly what women-hating males constantly falsely charge women with enacting.

    As always it is male sex right to enact so-called ‘sluttish behaviour’ because this supposedly proves the boys are real men but women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t by the women-hating boys. Women are either prudes or sluts – whereas the women-hating vile male sexual predators are lauded by their bros as being real men!

    So in essence it isn’t ‘sex’ the vile male sexual predators are enacting – rather it is male sex right to use women and girls as males’ dehumanised sexual service stations. After all no woman can be harmed since she isn’t human whereas the poor innocent (sic) boys are merely doing what their bros claim is normal male sexual activity! Be serial male sexual predators/rapists and this will ensure your women-hating bros will praise you and support your male sexual violence inflicted on women and girls.

  • Mexican American Lesbian

    While I agree with almost everything in this piece, that statistic on male rape victims is distorted by the fact quite a lot of men don’t realize they are being raped or are scared to report.

    • M. Zoidberg

      Let me guess, the definition of “sexual coercion” in this case is so nebulous that it cannot be defined. Kind of like the new left’s definition of “woman,” amiright?

    • Raelee

      I’ve done a lot of reading about that because I wanted to know what people meant. Yes men get raped & don’t report it, but that wouldn’t drastically change the imbalance since there’s an even bigger number of women also not reporting their rape, for the same reasons. So why would you point that out, but not mention the lack of reports from women as well? Men are also most likely to be raped by other men.

      Btw, I’m just talking strictly about female on male rape.

      I’ve read personally accounts & maybe I’ll catch heat for saying this, but when it comes to F on M rape, there are differences. Not less wrong obviously, but way less likely. Even a larger female doesn’t compare in strength to a male. Women just don’t have the strength advantage, or an actual weapon (a penis) to penetrate with, yet women are called liars and blamed. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but pointing out the differences, which could be compared to a man hitting a woman… hitting is wrong no matter what, but we all know there’s some differences in strength and damage… and we all know some men muddy the waters at times…

      To make it worse, men are always always always given the benefit of the doubt, and always always always given full sympathy.

      Just like the tendency to call things domestic abuse, that clearly aren’t, men have done that with rape. I sincerely tried reading a blog to highlight F on M rape, just to gain insight. Story after story was what they accuse women of: regret. Like pressured to sleep with an ex. And once again, domestic abuse stories, though they really do happen, are as mild as a gf telling a bf his friends are bad company, or not wanting to go to thier families house for the holidays.

      Seriously, why would you even choose to bring that up in here anyway, under this story? You specifically had to throw that in huh? I just have a big problem with the way this is always brought up.

      Before anyone wants to crucify me, I’m not claiming F on M rape doesn’t happen or isn’t bad. I’m just tired of how men are always believed, always sympathized with, and always brought up. No one ever questions it… meanwhile, women can be raped on a recording, and it still doesn’t matter. So if they can question women with evidence, I can question their stats. Equality right? Or is that logic only good when men use it to justify wanting to abuse more women???

      Sorry not sorry

      • Blazing Fire

        Yes, Raelee, even if a woman looks “large”, her volume would mostly be due to fat & water (as far as I have seen – among my acquaintances.. I’m no doctor), and her bones are finer, and somehow for some reason her hands are nowhere near as strong as a man’s & she can’t pin a man down easily, while even a ‘weak’ man typically doesn’t have trouble pinning a woman down. I know it is galling:(, but unfortunately it is a fact[*]. Anyway, so, F on M rape is highly unlikely, as you said, and if at all a female takes that risk, it would be the case of a very desperate (for having a child) woman laying with an unconscious man hoping to conceive – I can’t imagine someone doing something sooo risky (he could overpower her & tear her flesh or beat her to a pulp if he got out of his stupor.. or might act out violent-porn style stuff..) unless she was pushed by desperation (like the Old Testament incident – the women those days HAD to have a son, no other choice.. )

        ([*]Remember that fake-fem wrestler Falon Fox? I don’t remember his original name, but he fought a top female wrestler, who was initially confident. When she actually fought him (he is an avg/poor dude who couldn’t make it in men’s sports), she got the shock of her life & then confessed that she had never felt so overpowered ever though she is an unusually strong female. She could wriggle out of any female opponent’s hold, but this average dude had her pinned down & she couldn’t get away)

    • Agnes Robakiewicz

      So, while there’s no doubt that official rape statistics are conservative for both sexes, I don’t know if there’s reason to believe that there are more unreported rapes of males than females. Although we can certainly speculate that masculine gender norms would cause the feelings of shame at not being unable to defend himself to be especially strong in a man, the constant objectification of females, the normalization of the sex industry, female socialization, victim blaming (I have never heard of a male rape victim having his clothing choices interrogated, for example) all conspire to make women unlikely to report.

    • Cassandra

      Why say this here? What’s the point?

  • Zoë Lafantaisie

    Well done Agnes, thank you <3

  • Elara

    Fuck this shit. Patriarchy is speaking in two tongues as usual; firstly, it teaches girls that we must do our part and take responsibility for not getting raped. Like don’t get drunk, don’t wear revealing clothing, don’t walk home alone, don’t flirt unless you’re willing to go “all the way”. Society teaches girls and women that rape is very real. Yet, when women are raped this is questioned as if rape is something we accuse men of just because we regret sleeping with them and we’re out to ruin their lives! Society has the audacity to scare women with the looming threat of rape and scare women even more when we report it. This is so fucking infuriating it makes my blood boil.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I mean, the female victims of Catholic sex abuse aren’t even talked about… All the focus is on the male victims… And of course there should be focus on the male victims, because what happened to them is awful, but what you are saying is not true.

  • Wren

    Haha, I love the banner picture of the dog chewing a barbie. Perfect.

  • FierceMild

    Thanks for that!

  • Alienigena

    And men are the ones sexually assaulting other men. It is not women in the vast majority of cases. I don’t really understand why this conversation is happening on a feminist site. I think it is more suited to a site dedicated to men who whine about women and feminists all the time, i.e. MRA sites. The commenter isn’t really feminist in my view if she can imply that men are as likely to be raped by women as women are to be raped by men.

    • M. Zoidberg

      I’ve gone up against a few MRAs who have tried to use this study to claim that women sexually assault men at the same rates that men sexually assault women.

      A total of 43 percent of high school boys and young college men reported they had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor, according to a study published online in the APA journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

      How is shit like this even published?

      • Blazing Fire

        LOL at that “study” – a lone female physically coerced a male? (claimed by an anonymous male, obvs)

        Reminds me of this:

        (Koko is a gorilla that was trained in sign language)

        …. When no one was around, Koko managed to rip a sink out of the wall in her habitat. When the humans returned, they asked Koko who ripped out the sink.

        Koko signed, “The cat did it.”

        (sorry if that caused anyone to spurt out their tea:))

        OTOH, so, is this popularized “study” going to help keep males away?
        If the males really believe what they themselves are saying (anonymously), we should see them hesitate to come near us & harass us. Are we going to see that effect!!! ? (that would be a happy side-effect of this bluffing) Something tells me we won’t.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Men who are victims of rape are raped by other men, not women.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Women don’t do that though.

  • Blazing Fire

    Hee hee hee.. and that troll’s repeated quacking of “Last chance” sounds like a shady used car hawker bullying a hesitant buyer into taking his totally damaged goods ASAP, for what he claims as a “yuge discount”.