Campaign groups hit out at 'middle class' women remarks in rape case

Alan Lewis- 21-3-2018 .Rugby Rape Trial Week 8 Day 1 ..... Frank O'Donoghue QC at Belfast Crown Court..
Seanín Graham

CAMPAIGNERS against sexual violence have hit out at comments made by a senior defence barrister during the rugby rape trial regarding 'middle class' women not tolerating rape.

Louise Kennedy of Women's Aid NI said she feared some of the statements made in the case of four Ulster rugby players, who were cleared of all charges, would adversely impact women coming forward to report crimes.

During the trial in Belfast defence barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC, who represented Stuart Olding, told the jury there were a string of questions police should have asked the woman who made the allegations.

"Why didn't she scream the house down?" he said

"A lot of very middle-class girls were downstairs.

"They were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that."

The Irish News contacted the Bar Library and asked Mr O'Donoghue to respond to the criticism to his comments. So far however there has been no response.

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The Women's Aid worker said her organisation was "very clear" that rape "does not discriminate against anybody" and that most victims did not "scream or run away" but instead became numb with fear.

Ms Kennedy, who is the body's Regional Policy and Information Co-ordinator, said: "It's common knowledge that the trauma response of the body system is not just 'fight or flight'. It's a bit deeper than that," she added.

"You could fight or might run away - but many people freeze, tense up and do nothing, you then might start diplomatically try to convince someone to stop and then you may go completely limp.

"With regards to 'middle class' women not 'tolerating rape', we are very clear we support victims of domestic and sexual violence across Northern Ireland. It does not discriminate between class, ethnicity...abuse and rape happens everywhere.''

The leading campaigner said the Women's Aid helpline had received distressed calls since the trial started two months ago from victims who said it had "put them off ever reporting rape of sexual violence to police" or "going through the criminal justice system".

There has been severe criticism of "vile" comments made about the woman at the centre of the trial on social media.

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South Belfast Green Party assembly member Clare Bailey, who works for the support group Nexus, expressed concern about any suggestion that someone from a more privileged background cared more about rape victims.

"Rape is not just a sexual crime, it is about power and control," Ms Bailey said.

Ms Bailey said she was aware victims had been "re-traumatised" by the coverage of the trial both in mainstream media and on Twitter.

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