In the aftermath of Belfast rape trial

 

Sir, – As someone who recently graduated one of these supposed “elite rugby schools” (Orna Mulcahy, Opinion, March 30th) I find it distressing to be told I need to be educated about consent and grounded for the sheer fact that I played rugby.

Not only is a lot of what was said about rugby culture grossly exaggerated, a lot of it was simply untrue, namely that schools rugby players are given “special treatment” or never have “to buy a pint again in life”.

Neither myself nor my friends have ever been unclear as to what constitutes consent and the idea that rugby culture blurs the lines between right and wrong is false. The dedication and work ethic that is required to make it in rugby on the pitch translates into humility and compassion off it.

In no way do I condone what was said in the Whatsapp messages in the Belfast trial, but to assume that this sort of language is unique to rugby players is naive. Albeit theirs were more graphic and demeaning than most, most young people have written things that they would be ashamed of if they were made public. – Yours, etc,

ALEX PENNY,

Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – That rugby is a subject of comment in the aftermath of the recently concluded case in Belfast is perhaps not too surprising. But this focus on rugby is surely wrong.

The issues of entitlement and consent concern males in a wide range of activities across virtually all of society. Within the last year cases in music (famous conductors), cinema, academia, politics, and even the church, to name just a few, have been aired. Whatever educative measures are envisaged to address this behavioural problem is it not clear that they need to be applied across the board? – Yours, etc,

WILLIAM GRIMSON,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Following the recent acquittal of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding of charges of rape, the IRFU has acknowledged this has been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved.

With respect, I urge their review committee to bear in mind the trauma women throughout Ireland, indeed internationally, have suffered having read the disgusting comments made by the accused and their associates about women attending that party. – Yours, etc,

CARMEL BEDFORD,

Clonbur, Co Galway.

Sir, – I do not claim to know what happened in anyone’s bedroom except my own. However, the events of the past few weeks and the ongoing #MeToo movement have raised important issues which require long-overdue acknowledgment.

I have grown up being told that my friendly attitude may give men the wrong impression, that wearing certain clothes could gain me unwanted attention and to keep an eye on how much I drink to avoid becoming the target of an attack.

I’m certain I am not the only one who has been presented with these warnings, which, ridiculous as they are, have become common in our society. Just because a woman is friendly towards somebody does not mean they want to be intimate with them. Just because a woman wears a short dress does not mean that she is asking to be groped by a stranger. We need to stop blaming women for the unacceptable actions of others.

Instead of teaching women how to avoid being disrespected, we need to teach (all) men how to show respect. I don’t want my future daughters to feel they need to alter their appearance, their values and their behaviour in order to deserve this basic right. – Yours, etc,

AMY LEWIS,

Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – Much has been written in the past few days suggesting there is a toxic, entitled male culture of deep disrespect for women within the rugby community.

I have watched my 14-year-old daughter play rugby on many Saturdays throughout the winter just past. I see her physical commitment, bravery and selflessness. I observe the fierce loyalty and solidarity among the girls on the team as they spend over an hour together in mud, wind and rain, supporting and encouraging each other. I see what it does for their confidence. I listen as my daughter womansplains the rules to me as we drive home, and as we watched the recent women’s and men’s internationals. I see the women international players coming to my daughter’s club, as they go to other clubs, giving free skills coaching sessions to the next generation. It is a selfless, collaborative, generous female culture and a wonder to behold.

I have no doubt these good qualities are to be found at all levels in the boys’ and men’s game too, and that disrespect for women is neither pervasive in any one sport, nor confined to it. But it is there. The IRFU has a role to play in addressing it. If it was to continue to grow its support for the development of the women’s game it would really be onto something. – Yours, etc,

MARK BRENNOCK,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – The Tom Inglis opinion piece (March 29th) on the Belfast rape trial has left me repulsed. The article opens with a question, “What was the woman thinking, going back to a house full of drunk men without backup?”

Why would any citizen in this country need “back up”? Statements like this normalise and almost condone rape culture. I, as a woman, have been taught by society to “not get raped”. Why can’t we teach our men to “not rape”? – Yours, etc,

MIRIAM CORCORAN,

Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – I am bemused – no, I am nearing apoplexy – at the protests in this jurisdiction, about the treatment in another jurisdiction of the complainant in the case of the Ulster rugby players. How many of those protesters attended the trial?

From the media reports, it appears that at least some of the protesters are second-guessing the not guilty verdicts, complaining at the treatment of the complainant but ignoring the fact that four young men (declared not guilty by a properly-constituted jury) have had their lives and careers disrupted for more than two years, have been subjected to intense public scrutiny by the media, and – let us not forget – have incurred what must be huge legal costs, since employing two barristers for more than 40 days is likely to have cost many tens of thousands of pounds each.

I have two daughters and I have no idea how I would cope if either of them were placed in the same position as the unfortunate complainant, but subjecting to pillory two (or four) innocent people would not give them justice or benefit them in any way. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McENEANEY,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Some questions to ponder. If the jury in the rape trial had been composed of eight women and three men, would the same verdict have been reached? Should jury deliberations in future be chaired by a judicially-appointed neutral (non-jury) legal executive of the court? Should all rape and sexual assault cases have a balance of men and women on the jury?

Did every individual on the jury have sufficient experience and competency to process and understand three days of summing up by a judge?

Does the inquisitorial system of jurisprudence (as practised in, for example, France) have anything to offer the adversarial system in getting to the truth of a matter?

Could a rape charge be reduced to a charge of unintentional sexual assault, similar to a murder charge being reduced to manslaughter? Can we find a shade of grey amidst the black and white? – Yours, etc,

ALISON HACKETT,

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The burden in rape cases is unfairly on traumatised complainants to maintain complete consistency in their side of the story, “Sexual offences: a system in need of change” (Editorial, March 29th).

As a consequence the accounts of the accused are often allowed to be relatively full of contradictions and omissions. In this context it’s hardly surprising that it is so difficult for prosecuting authorities to achieve guilty verdicts.

Victims of sexual crimes are well aware of this unsatisfactory state of affairs. No wonder, as your Editorial states, “there is such a low rate of reporting of sexual offences”; and that rape in Ireland remains a crime “hidden in plain sight”. – Yours, etc,

JOE McCARTHY,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Regarding the (contrived?) hysteria of some people over Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson’s Whatsapp messages, all I can say is that some people must live very sheltered lives. – Yours, etc,

PAUL WILLIAMS,

Kilkee, Co Clare.

A chara, – The jury found the accused not guilty. Is that essentially not the end of it? – Yours, etc,

JOHN F CRONIN,

Terenure,

Dublin 6.