Commenting on the recent rape trial and its fallout in Northern Ireland, Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“For many survivors of sexual violence, hearing details of the rape trial involving Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIIlroy and Rory Harrison will have been distressing.
“We urge all those who comment on this case to remember that insinuating that women commonly ‘cry rape’ often results in further mental distress and can silence women and girls who have experienced sexual violence.
“We know from our work that the language some men use to describe sexual acts degrades women and girls. It is not good enough to dismiss the horrendous language the players used in mobile phone exchanges as mere juvenile bravado.
“The language and behaviour of these men, who are followed by thousands of fans, indicates contempt for women and sends a highly disturbing message to women and girls – that it is okay to treat women as sex objects and play things solely for the pleasure of men.
“These players have enjoyed the privileges that being a national sports star affords. They represent their country and the people of Ulster which includes thousands of women and girls. What message are we giving women and girls if they walk back not the pitch?”
Activists and women’s groups including the Belfast Women’s Network and EVAW member Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland have been forced to respond very publicly to the fallout from the trial because of the impact on women in Ireland, and have called for these men not to play rugby again. EVAW supports this call.