I have been trying to avoid the news of the Ulster Rugby Rape Case (I can’t even bring myself to Google and insert a link here so you’ll have to go searching for the grey and gory details yourself – be warned: it ain’t pretty).
I just can’t cope with the verdict.
Can you cope with the verdict?
It took the jury two hours to reach a decision. Two hours.
There were eight men and four women.
Hands in pockets as they left the courtroom.
The woman’s name and image have appeared widely in public social media groups. Anonymity means little in our digital age.
Have I got these facts right? It’s all a blur – I have actively resisted any information but it gets through, the news, these days.
No Man Is An Island – unless, of course, you’re an island protected by a school of solicitous sharks who predate on those who exist outside the old boys’ network. A young woman on a night out: how many drinks?; how tight were her jeans?; how many kisses?; why no screams?; why did she go back for her phone?; what kind of underwear was she wearing?
She had no chance against them.
No woman has a chance against a justice system so inherently male; masculine; colonial; prejudiced.
Innocent until proven guilty, you say. And now they are proven innocent.
There are the hundreds of thousands who mock and fume that they were ever doubted, son.
The man who raped me would be found innocent too, of that I am sure. There is precious little evidence to verify any of my story apart from the testimony of my best friend; a few post-event notes scribbled on scraps of copy book paper; my parents’ memories of my first breakdown six months later; the notes of my counsellor from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; a lifetime of despair; unworthiness and self-doubt.
But I was raped. I can say that word now. I said the R word without hesitation for the first time in my first counselling session with my potentially new counsellor yesterday: she asked me if she could refer to the incident that occurred when I was sixteen as a “rape” or if I’d prefer “attack” or “assault”. It has never felt like an attack in that the shock horror element of it didn’t hit me until a long time after. I don’t feel like it qualifies as an attack – attack is too sudden, and wasn’t I asking for it?
I doubt that young woman in Belfast felt like it was an “attack” either – she was manipulated and used and coerced into her own rape. But she was raped – the medical evidence supported a guilty verdict; her story has been validated; their messages attested to their misogynistic, entitled hubris.
And that makes sense to me.
And I believe her.
Do you believe me?