Thong — a seemingly innocuous five-letter word. To some it is a pair of flip flops or an underwear type.
But to others, it is an admission of consent, particularly to a defense lawyer in Cork, Ireland.
On Nov. 15, an Irish man accused of raping a 17-year-old woman in a muddy alleyway was acquitted after his attorney argued she had agreed to sex because she was wearing a lacy thong.
“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” the lawyer asked, The Irish Times reports. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
A justification the jury of eight men and four women unfortunately accepted — a gross miscalculation on their part and indicative of a much larger, societal issue.
The verdict spurned protests across several cities in Ireland, even sparking conversations beyond the European country that centered on accountability, consent and victim blaming.
Women around the globe started tweeting pictures of their own underwear, denouncing the case and misogyny behind its end result, according to The New York Times. Those in Ireland hung thongs on clotheslines and laid lingerie on the Cork courthouse steps.
“My issue isn’t just the barrister (lawyer); it’s the system that allows it,” said Mary Crilly, director of the Cork Sexual Violence Center, The New York Times reports.
It’s a system we need to shut down and change completely.
When will we stop putting the blame on the victim’s shoulders? It doesn’t matter if someone’s drinking or wearing revealing clothing, no means no — not convince, guilt or ignore them.
I started wearing thongs in middle school. So, does that mean at 13 or 14 years old I — or any young girl — am asking to be raped?
I don’t think so, nor should anyone else.
But yet, they do, which is why so many of these incidents go unreported.
Only 37 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
However, after a report is made, most still don’t result in an arrest or a conviction. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, RAINN officials estimate about 57 individuals will be arrested and six incarcerated.
And why should victims come forward when they are criticized for their every action and told it’s their fault — that their choice of underwear is the reason they were violated so heinously.
It doesn’t matter this case occurred in Ireland because many people around the world share the same beliefs as the lawyer, defendant and jury — clothes equal consent.
People need to not only believe survivors, but treat them with respect and be vigilant in seeking justice.
We, as a society, have been far too silent on this issue for far too long — it’s time we change that. If we don’t, how can we expect anything to improve.
Olivia Heersink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @heersinkolivia
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