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Outrage in Ireland after teenage girl's underwear used as evidence in rape trial

Women’s rights campaigners in Ireland and beyond are outraged and organizing protests after a man was acquitted of raping a 17-year-old in a trial where the defence lawyer used the woman’s laced thong underwear as evidence.

Activists protest and organize under social media campaign #ThisisNotConsent

Campaigners including the Irish lawmaker Ruth Coppinger, second from right, rallied on Wednesday to protest what they say is 'victim blaming' in the country's court system. (RuthCoppingerTD via Twitter)

Women's rights campaigners in Ireland and beyond are outraged and organizing protests after a man was acquitted of raping a 17-year-old in a trial where the defence lawyer used the woman's laced thong underwear as evidence.

In her closing argument following the rape trial in Cork, Ireland, earlier this month, defence lawyer Elizabeth O'Connell urged the jury to take into account the underwear the teenager was wearing on the night she said she was raped in a laneway.

"Does the evidence out rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?" the defence lawyer asked.

"You have to look at the way she was dressed," O'Connell said, according to a report in the Irish Examiner newspaper. "She was wearing a thong with a lace front."

A 27-year-old man, who maintained the encounter was consensual, was found not guilty of rape by a jury of eight men and four women who deliberated for 90 minutes last week.

Angry protests

Almost 400 people rallied in Cork on Wednesday against the verdict, the Irish Independent reported, while the social media campaign #ThisisNotConsent gained traction globally.

"Consent cannot come from articles of clothing. Our underwear is no ones business," Orlagh O'Connor, a Dublin City resident, said on Twitter. "Our underwear does not give consent. We do."

At the protest, women carried placards with pictures of underwear and signs reading "There is no party in my pants unless you are invited" and "Thongs can't talk."

Ruth Coppinger, an Irish lawmaker, held up a pair of blue underwear in the country's Parliament on Tuesday to call attention to the case and what she called a culture of victim-blaming.

"It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here," Coppinger said. "How do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in court?"

Coppinger, the member of Parliament from Dublin-West, said politicians haven't taken the issues of sexual assault and harassment seriously enough.

"The women of this country are getting a little weary at the routine victim-blaming that is going in Irish courts, and the failure of lawmakers in this House do anything about it," she added, the Irish Independent reported Wednesday.