Trigger warning: Rape, Abortion
Paddy Jackson and co. walk free. Innocent after a three and a half hour deliberation by the jury while the victim was on the stand for a full week. Her underwear passed around. Her story ripped apart. People on social media calling her every name under the sun. “Asking for it”. Louise O’Neill’s book of the same name was hard to read and I felt so gripped by it because it felt like it could be a reality. Then it came true.
I’m sickened because it could have been me, or my friend, or most of you reading this. When I was eighteen, my best friend and I regularly went on nights out and back to house parties with people we didn’t know. We were not there for sex. Actually of all of the parties we ever attended, neither of us ever had sex. We had no interest. We were there for a party. But were we asking for it? Was going back to a party after a night out a way of saying that you were up for it? Would we have deserved to be raped?
According to a lot of the comments I am reading online today, yes. We shouldn’t have gone back to parties with people we didn’t know. We shouldn’t have kissed boys there (and genuinely that was the most we ever did, although so what if it wasn’t?). Is kissing someone giving consent for sex? Absolutely not. I have kissed quite a few people throughout my life but I can count my number of sexual partners on one hand. I am not saying this to make anybody feel uncomfortable whether they have slept with one or one hundred people. I am simply pointing out that kissing and sexual intercourse are not equal. Just because you do one, does not mean you must do the other.
When I first got pregnant, I spent hours wondering about this little person inside me. Who were they? What would they look like? What would they be like as a person? I always wanted to know the sex. I had no preference. It made absolutely no difference to me. I would love them just the same. But I wanted to know. To know a little bit more about them. So at eighteen weeks, on my husband’s birthday, I paid for a private scan so that we could find out.
In the lead up, so many people that I knew took a guess. The astounding majority said ‘boy’. “I could see you with a little boy, Dani”, “I have a feeling it’s a boy, Dani”, “I would be majorly surprised if it wasn’t a boy, Dani”. My aunt insisted we do that stupid test where you put a ring on a chain and see what direction it swings in. It said boy. Obviously these assumptions were based on absolutely nothing. No scientific evidence. But people said it to me so often that I started to believe it. I pictured him. In baggy jeans like his dad. A little mohawk when he grew enough hair. I thought about what bringing up a boy would mean to me. About teaching respect. Consent. Those were my main priorities when I considered raising him.
When the ultrasound technician told me it was a girl, both my husband and I were floored. We hadn’t even realised how much we had believed everybody else when they told us it was a boy but we momentarily didn’t believe her, despite her pointing out the genitals on a screen to us. During my twenty week scan at the hospital, I asked the tech about the gender again, pretending I didn’t know already, just to be sure.
I was equally as happy about having a girl. As I stated earlier, I had no preference whatsoever once the baby was healthy. It just took a while to sink in when I had built the vision of my little boy in my head. I had so many favorite boys’ names but I couldn’t think of a single girls’ one for a long time. I sat and stroked my swelling stomach and imagined her. A HER. I instantly fell in love with the idea of having a girl, much like I did when I thought she was a boy.
The 8th Amendment is so prevalent in the media at the moment. As it should be. It has been prevalent in some women’s lives for years. Twelve women a day, travelling abroad for basic medical care because our country will not support them. If you don’t want to think about those who are simply choosing what is best in their circumstances, think of those with much-wanted babies dying inside them, those that are in danger of becoming sick themselves with infections that may render them sterile in future. Our country ignores those women. Sends them away. Think about the rape victims whom our country wants to force to endure looking at their rapist’s offspring for the rest of their lives. Think about the fourteen year old who died giving birth last week in Paraguay, after she was raped. I know the 8th is not a black and white issue. Some people would like abortion in the case of medical issues or rape but don’t want girls having a loyalty card for their local abortion clinic (as if that would be a thing). But just looking at the law and reading stories from women who have suffered majorly because of it, I think it is clear that something needs to change.
Being pregnant with a daughter, this is something that has been on my mind a lot. I sincerely hope that she will never be in a situation where the 8th might affect her. Rather than myself, I think of her when I read the stories. I think of her living in a country where women’s rights are limited. We’re not supposed to be a third world country, but in some respects it can feel that way.
Now with the outcome of the Paddy Jackson trial and even more so, reading the comments from both men and women alike calling the victim a slut and asking if she will be locked up for defamation of character, claiming she is an attention-seeker when she has been kept anonymous throughout the trial, being sneered at for going back to the party at all – even though we have almost all been there and gone back to a party – I am now more scared than ever about having a daughter.
When I thought I was having a son, I worried about being able to teach him about consent correctly, but what do we teach our girls? Not to go to parties? Not to kiss boys unless you are explicitly giving your consent for them to do what they like to you? Not to wear that outfit because it screams that you are asking for it? Not to report your rapist?
I feel like we are after taking a massive leap backwards. I am not a crier. I rarely cry. Even throughout this pregnancy, my emotions have rarely gotten the best of me. Today I cried reading the comments about the trial. Reading what they are saying about her. Because she is me. She is my best friend. She is any one of us. She is my daughter.
She was not listened to.
She did everything she was supposed to do.
She reported her rapist.
It didn’t work.
I am sad for this country where we can be raped and then made carry our rapist’s baby because of the 8th. We’re supposed to have moved on since Magdalene laundries and Tuam babies. From keeping quiet about these things. From being shamed.
I’m still stuck.
Mulling over that question.
What do we teach our daughters?