When a defence barrister cited the 17-year-old complainant's thong during a recent rape trial (in which a man was acquitted), it sparked worldwide outrage and online activism. Women posted photos of their underwear under the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, while others took to the streets and painted murals in Ireland to emphasise that no type of underwear means a woman is "asking for it". Rapists cause rape, not what a woman is wearing.
Now, a campaigner is taking her protest a step further by walking through Dublin in her underwear and body paint to demand rape trial reform. Stacie Ellen Murphy, 26, from the Irish capital, who was pictured protesting yesterday alongside two other women, did her first walk on Monday and has promised to repeat it every day, saying she won't stop until 50 others join her.
Murphy took to the streets yesterday in black lingerie, stockings and bright pink suspenders with the refrain "This is not consent" across her chest and "I'm not asking for it" on her thighs, and was accompanied by fellow protesters, Alanna Cassidy and Lena Seale, also wearing underwear.
The case of the teenager from Cork has prompted debate in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere, about victim blaming and the relevance of an alleged victim's clothing during rape trials. Murphy believes the answer is clear, and has attracted national media attention and messages from people around the world.
"It wasn't just the recent trial that made me do it, though it topped it off," Murphy told Refinery29. "In so many rape trials clothing is used to brandish people's histories, and their lifestyles are taken into account, but that shouldn't make any difference at all. If 'no' is said or if it's not consensual, it's rape and that's the end of the story. But when I heard about the girl from Cork, I decided more needs to be done."
On Monday, Murphy hugged rape survivor Leona O’Callaghan, an "incredible woman", outside the courts in Dublin in a show of solidarity. (The same day a 52-year-old man was jailed for 17 years for raping her in a graveyard when she was 13, with O’Callaghan, now 37, waiving her right to anonymity so that he could be named.)
"In Dublin over 100 [fully clothed] women came and held up their thongs, and didn't gain much media attention," she continued, comparing that to the amount of attention and messages she's garnered from people in the US, Canada and further afield. "I didn't have any idea that this would blow up so much but I'm so proud it did. Speaking to Leona drove me to keep going and I'm not going to stop until a change has been made – not just for women but for people of all genders and religions and walks of life."
Murphy wants to ensure that "no one's clothing is considered if an accusation of rape or abuse has been made. No clothing should ever be waved around in a court case unless it's to show how vicious the attack was."
She described the reaction from other women to her demonstration as "absolutely outstanding". "I've been flooded with emails, comments, DMs and texts, it's unbelievable and has been so nice. Of course, we've heard from people who don't seem to be living in the 21st century so some people have said, 'Oh, put some clothes on,' and I've only had one woman body-shame me during the protest which is amazing."
She also recalls a man during Thursday's march telling her that she was "asking for it", after which she turned around and said it was comments like his that motivated her in the first place. To which he said: "Shut your mouth, suck my cock or I'll break your nose."
Some people outside of Ireland have also been less supportive, Murphy acknowledges, asking why they need to be "naked", but she believes they're simply unaware of the context of rape trials in Ireland and that the odd ignorant comment is a price worth paying for the worldwide attention the issue has now received.
Murphy's own experiences of sexual violence also motivated her demonstration, she revealed to Refinery29. "The first time I was abused I was 4 years old and it was ongoing for about five years." When she eventually spoke about the abuse, aged 8, she says she was made to feel as if she'd "led him on".
"The idea that a 4-year-old child could have led on a fully grown man in his 30s is astounding to me," she said, criticising the police's response to her allegations and saying the experience contributed to her ongoing mental health problems. It was only reading about Leona O’Callaghan's story that prompted her to start talking about her own abuse for the first time.
Murphy is now calling on others in Dublin to join in with her daily marches. "I'm not going to stop and this is going to be ongoing. I'm now making a Facebook group called 'Walk for Justice' and I'm calling on anyone and everyone to join the group if they support the cause. I'll be posting days and times that we'll be protesting."