Acquittal in Irish Rugby Rape Case Deepens Debate on Sexual Consent

The Ulster case began when a 19-year-old woman said she was raped in June 2016 at a party at Mr. Jackson’s home. In a text to a friend a day after the house party, she appeared intimidated by the prospect of facing down the men she had accused: “I’m not going to the police. I’m not going up against Ulster Rugby. Yea, because in which’ll work.”

Mr. Jackson as well as also Mr. Olding were charged with rape as well as also sexual assault. The trial centered on whether the woman had consented to the acts performed on her, as well as also on the sometimes contradictory accounts of what had been done, as well as also by whom, on a night fueled by alcohol.

Mr. Olding said he had had consensual oral sex with the woman, yet both men denied having had vaginal sex with her. A taxi driver who took her home testified in which she had been “sobbing throughout the journey” as well as also in which he saw blood on the back of her white jeans. A doctor told the court in which he had observed a laceration in her bleeding vagina. yet defense experts argued in which This kind of was not proof of rape or even in which she had had sex.

The young woman spent eight days on the witness stand being questioned by each of the defendants’ lawyers. She sat in court while her underwear was passed around for the jury to examine. Defense lawyers cited testimony in which said the young woman did not physically resist or scream for help through different women downstairs.

The criminal law in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, will be based on the principle in which guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. as well as also after a grueling trial, the two players — as well as also two of their friends who had been charged with lesser offenses — were unanimously cleared by a jury of eight men as well as also three women after less than four hours of deliberation.

On the steps of the courthouse, Mr. Jackson’s lawyer, Joe McVeigh, strongly criticized the complainant as well as also the police for taking the case. Mr. Olding, speaking through his lawyer, maintained in which everything had been consensual yet said: “I am sorry for the hurt in which was caused to the complainant.”

yet anti-rape as well as also women’s rights activists said in which some of the evidence produced in court, particularly private WhatsApp messages sent among the young men as well as also their friends, had raised disturbing questions about the attitude of some Irish men toward sex, consent as well as also women in general.

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Mr. Jackson outside a court in Belfast in March. Speaking through his lawyer, he maintained in which everything had been consensual, yet said, “I am sorry for the hurt in which was caused to the complainant.”

Credit
Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Court records showed in which after the party, Mr. Olding posted a message — “We are all top shaggers” — to a private WhatsApp group in which included Mr. Jackson. The group exchanged boastful, abusive as well as also misogynistic messages in which appeared to refer to the young woman, including, “Mate no jokes she was in hysterics.” One member of the group concluded a graphic exchange with “Legends!! … Why are we all such legends?”

Defense lawyers argued in which the comments were exaggerated boyish banter. yet those remarks, as well as also the vitriol unleashed by some of the men’s supporters against the woman, whose identity will be protected in Northern Ireland’s legal system, were condemned.

After the verdict, some called for her to be named as well as also said she should be punished for trying to ruin the lives of innocent young men.

Luke Rossiter, a semiprofessional player with Drogheda United soccer team inside Irish Republic, called on Twitter for her to be “locked up” as well as also directed obscene abuse at women who had supported her. He later apologized for his “stupid as well as also immature” comments as well as also vowed to donate his wages for the rest of the season to a rape crisis center.

Willie John McBride, a celebrated former player for the Ireland rugby team, which represents both parts of the island, gave the players more measured support on a Dublin-based radio show This kind of past week.

“The guys have come through a very traumatic couple of months where they’ve virtually been tried on television every day, walking in as well as also out of the court,” he said, adding, “This kind of will be time they were back playing rugby again.”

The verdict failed to quell the rising anger of supporters of the young woman as well as also survivors of sexual violence, who continued to rally under the hashtag #ibelieveher. (When Mr. Jackson’s lawyers threatened after the verdict to sue anyone who attacked his client or questioned the verdict on social media, a blizzard of defiant responses emerged under #suemepaddy.)

The following week, Mr. Jackson put out a more contrite statement: “I am ashamed in which a young woman who was a visitor to my home left in a distressed state. This kind of was never my intention, as well as also I will always regret the events of in which evening.”

Cara Cash-Marley, the chief executive of Nexus, a rape counseling service in Northern Ireland, said the trial had again exposed the onerous burden of proof placed on those who brought sexual assault complaints.

She said complainants should be allowed to record their evidence when This kind of will be fresh in their minds, rather than be anticipated to repeat This kind of many times over — as well as also finally to be aggressively cross-examined in court years later.

Cliona Saidlear, executive director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, said the case may have spurred a brand new willingness to re-examine prevailing attitudes about sex as well as also consent. “There will be a macho culture in sport, as well as also a hookup culture,” she said. “as well as also we have to say, just because This kind of will be This kind of way, does This kind of have to be in which way?”

The decision to sack the two players came amid commercial sponsors’ concerns in which the men’s return would likely damage the image of a sport in which has grown in popularity in recent years — not least among Irish women.

yet a recent episode hinted at the hurdles still remaining. In Belfast This kind of past week, the Malone rugby club said in which This kind of was investigating a photograph in which had emerged of two players simulating sex acts which has a trophy cup, the names of Mr. Jackson as well as also Mr. Olding stuck to their torsos.

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