Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

'My daughter killed herself after court thong ordeal'

The mother of a Scottish teenage rape victim who took her own life after being forced to hold up her underwear in court has said she is “appalled” by the recent case in this country that has prompted widespread protests.

Women in Ireland and across the world have shared images of their underwear on Twitter, with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, following a case in Cork in which a senior defence counsel used an alleged rape victim’s choice of underwear – in this case a thong – to argue that she consented to sex.

The case has some parallels with a trial in Scotland in 2002, when a 15-year-old boy was found guilty of raping Lindsay Armstrong (17).

Lindsay took her own life two weeks after the trial ended.

During the trial, the 17-year-old was asked to hold up her thong, and read the slogan on the front which said ‘Little Devil’.

Her mother – Linda Armstrong – said she assumed the experience her late daughter endured in relation to her underwear was something that no longer happened.

“I am shocked this kind of thing is still being used as evidence.

“I learned about the case when a friend sent the story to me. It brought all the bad memories back.

“I just thought I can’t believe they are still bringing this up,” Ms Armstrong said.

Lindsay Armstrong was raped in a park near her home in September 2001, when her attacker was aged 14. He was jailed for four years after a trial the following year.

Lindsay’s mother, who is from Ayrshire, said she appreciates the complainant in the Cork trial did not have to hold up her underwear unlike her daughter. However, the linking of underwear to consent was similar.

“Lindsay was made to hold up her underwear three times,” she said.

“She had said that he had ripped her underwear off, not literally meaning ripped. She just meant he had pulled it off her.

“They said she had to hold up her thong to prove that her underwear wasn’t ripped, to make out she was a liar.

“But when Lindsay picked them up she said she hardly recognised them because they were covered in cuts from where DNA samples had been taken. So it wasn’t really to prove they weren’t ripped, because they were damaged.

“She was so embarrassed and she was crying and she put them down. She was then told to hold them up again.

“After that he [the defence lawyer] told her to pick them up again and read out what was written on the front. That was nothing to do with whether they were ripped or not.”

Ms Armstrong spoke to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper as protests about the case in Cork gained momentum across the world.

Yesterday in Dublin, Stacie Ellen Murphy, standing in her underwear, staged her own protest outside the Courts of Criminal Justice complex.

Notes written on her skin included ‘This is not consent’, ‘no consent’ and ‘I’m not asking for it’.

She was warmly embraced by rape survivor Leona O’Callaghan as she emerged from court, after delivering a powerful victim impact statement, telling her rapist “You did not win”.

Fox News, the ‘New York Times’, ‘Time’ magazine, Sky News, CNN, and the BBC are among the international news agencies to have reported on protests in the wake of the rape trial in Cork earlier this month.

‘Lawyer in Rape Trial Links Thong With Consent, and Ireland Erupts’ was the headline on one piece in the ‘New York Times’.

Last week, TD Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the Dáil while discussing the case, and the clip went viral.

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