ROSA, a socialist-feminist organisation, initiated by women in the Socialist Party issued a statement at the time of the verdict of the Ulster Rugby trial. The Socialist Party fully supports the demands being put forward by ROSA. Here we publish the statement:
Today there is outrage at the outcome of the Ulster Rugby rape trial, which like over 94% of all rape trials, has resulted in no conviction for the accused. The conviction rates for sexual violence are far lower than for any other crime. The high-profile nature of this trial has laid bare the reason: the criminal justice system is not equipped to deliver justice for women on the basis that our clothes, where we go, who we look at, can be taken as evidence for consent, in face of the express statement that consent was not granted.
Comments made by the defence barrister throughout the course of the trial have revealed the attitude of the criminal justice system to victims of sexual violence. From the naked victim-blaming of statements like “If you didn’t like him, why were you kissing him in his bedroom?”, to the young woman’s clothes being passed around the jury and inspected for tan stains as evidence of consent, the trial took the form of a prolonged character assassination of the complainant based on misogynistic ideas.
The comments on the rugby players’ “upbringing” and what good families they come from, and the implication that the party’s attendees would have prevented the rape had the victim screamed because they were “middle class” also exposes the disgusting anti-working class prejudice inherent in the legal system.
The media has served the defence’s aim of giving voice to the most conservative ideas in society and backward ideas about sexual consent. Reportage has been biased and salacious: some papers published descriptions of the woman’s clothes and underwear.
When asked in court whether or not the complainant had said “yes”, Paddy Jackson replied “she didn’t say no”. The fact that this was interpreted as an affirmation of consent, rather than an admission that consent was not obtained, is extremely telling. The inadequacy of the legal system, as well as the woeful lack of factual sex education in schools that teaches consent, must be addressed.
The sexist attitudes that have dominated this trial show there is a need for special measures in order to ensure that victims of sexual violence receive justice. The example of specialised courts should be considered, as in South Africa and other countries, which provide judge and juries with training and have achieved a higher level of conviction and a less traumatic experience in court for victims of sexual violence.
This system offers no justice for women and victims of sexual violence. We cannot tolerate these systemic failings any longer.