Citizens Gather in Solidarity

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A march for solidarity took place today, at the Spire in Dublin City. This was one of many marches organised across Ireland in protest of the verdict given in the Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding rape trial, that concluded yesterday in Laganside Crown Court, in Belfast. Four men accused of raping a woman, were found ‘not guilty’ by a jury of eight men and three women. People carried signs at the event, which read: “I Believer Her,” “Time’s Up” and “Blame the Misogynist, Not the Victim.”

A number of students from UCD were present at the event, including the Auditor of Consent at UCD and UCDSU Welfare Officer.

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Among the many speakers at the event, individuals gave their accounts of personal experiences with sexual assault. One woman recounted how she contacted the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) in November 2017 and was told she’d have to wait until August 2018 for an appointment. TD Ruth Coppinger said that “we need massive change. The way crisis centres should be funded. We need to look at the level of crime in society, sex crimes against women and girls and also vulnerable men.”

Speaking to the University Observer, Coppinger praised the “younger generation” who attended the march and how they were “no longer prepared to accept this culture that legitimises, and encourages in some cases, violence against women and this toxic sexism which discredits victims when they do come forward.” Speaking at the event, Coppinger asked if people were willing to attend a similar march on Saturday, March 31st. The event was soon created and shared on Facebook, and is to be held at the Central Bank, Dame Street at 2pm.

Representatives from ROSA and the DRCC also spoke at the event, and some of the points they made were that one in ten rapes are reported to the authorities and of that, only between 1-2% result in a conviction. They reiterated that more funding should be made available to the DRCC and other crisis services in Ireland.

Coppinger says that to get a higher rate of people coming forward and reporting cases of sexual assault, rape and for more convictions, “the whole process would need to be made a lot easier. At the moment you have to wait 33 months.” As a means of going forward, Coppinger would like to see “special dedicated courts to deal with rape, to deal with sexual crimes, where judges would be trained. Also, juries should get a certain amount of training to be on a jury, because they are going in with their pre-conceived cultural ideas, and the defence plays on those prejudices.”

When asked what students can do to become more active in speaking out against sexism in society, Coppinger says, “I would encourage all students to push, in their colleges, this issue of consent. It is something that came out really strongly in the trial. The idea that consent should be sought not assumed. I know some colleges are initiating classes, but it’s voluntary, it’s student’s who are interested. The government should be funding that. But moreover, we need students to be protesting about the culture that allowed this particular case to take place the way it did.”

Consent at UCD have invited Ruth Coppinger to their ‘Take Back The Night’ event on April 10th in Building 71 on the UCD campus.

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