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I felt compelled to write about the Belfast rape case as I am still reeling from the impact of the outcome. I would imagine I’m not alone when I describe a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think about it. With that said, I would have to admit that right from the beginning of the case when I began to read and hear on social media about the witness who entered the room on what she thought was a “threesome”, I foresaw the possibility of this outcome.
I would absolutely like to begin by thanking that woman for her bravery and courage. The outcome of the case, although hugely disappointing (to put it mildly) is a landmark moment. This case will probably do far more good in the long run, not only for the girl herself, but for the worldwide movement for equality for women. She will probably never know how many people support her, believe her, and have been moved to tears, and to action because of her.
While attending a talk in the Liquor Rooms, Wellington Quay, on ‘The Culture of Sexual Harassment’ last night (28th March) Simone George (Consultant Litigator) said that ‘if we had equality there would be no need for conversations around consent, because we would be dealing with equals.’ These bumps in the road are to insure we stay vigilant in our pursuit for gender equality. The truth of the matter is that every man woman and child is part of the problem. We were born into it, we may not have created it, but we are responsible for changing it.
Who Holds the Power
The issue of inequality between the sexes, patriarchy and male supremacy all sustain the rape culture that cases like this bring into the light. These seemingly acceptable behaviours all stem from cultural norms that go back generations. These systems were designed by men for men, to ensure that men retained all of the power.
The culture we grew up with has been sustained by generations of men with power, dominating and controlling women’s lives from every conceivable angle. As a result, women of every race, creed and culture have internalised our oppression to the point of simply ‘putting up with it’. Just as slavery once ended, this too must end.
I have to fight against my own conditioning of resenting and hating men for how they treat women. It is no more their fault than it is mine. I do not wish to condone the actions of a rapist or diminish rape and its impacts in any way. However, I think it’s is important to acknowledge that the rapist is just as conditioned to see women as ‘less than’ as women are to accept their behaviours.
We must all take a giant step back and recognise that there is a much bigger problem to deal with. A complete shift in our thinking is required for change to occur. We are up against a system, a patriarchy like our political, legal, health and education systems that are inept, outdated and not fit for purpose. Gender inequality is just another system put in place a long time ago.
Change is coming
The good news is that we are gaining small incremental changes. There does appear to be a worldwide awakening around these issues. It is important to remember that and not get despondent when things go wrong, or we don’t get the outcomes we hope and work for.
All these systems must come down. Piece by piece, bit by bit. It will not be easy, and it will take time, but we mustn’t give up or take our eye off the ball and lose momentum.
We must start teaching our children in schools and at home in a more holistic way. We need to provide them the tools they need to navigate this world. Placing mental health at the top of the agenda. Children should be learning about their bodies as soon as they begin to walk. To quote Noeline Blackwell (CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre) ‘our education systems should be minding our children’s mental, physical and emotional needs.’
We must teach both boys and girls as young as possible about their own bodies. They need to feel in control and have full autonomy when it comes to personal space and boundaries.
There are strong amazing women and men working tirelessly to attain some balance. We must all do our bit, however small. We can create a better world where men and women are equal if we work together.
June- 29th March 2018