The rape trial was like a rugby match between the genders.
In the post-match analysis the front row of our statutory bodies stand shoulder to shoulder as representatives of the sisterhood against the dominant male scrum.
Defending her decision to engage the opposition, Marianne O’Kane PPS assistant director said she believed that she had, ‘a reasonable prospect of victory [conviction]’ and that the contest was ‘in the public interest.’
She lauded the work of her teammates and singled out for particular praise the ‘courage and determination’ of her key player, the complainant.
In this rugby contest, Marianne was propped on either side by Paula Hilman PSNI Superintendent and Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee. They eulogised each other’s professionalism (PSNI of PPS and vice versa) in preparation and performance during this rugby Test.
They too made special mention of the brave role of the complainant in proceedings. In a warning, Paula threatened that anyone who even mentions the name of the complainant will be hunted down.
Apparently dissatisfied at such verdicts, Paula also promised to, ‘work hard to improve outcomes’ in the future.
During the sporting contest, a crowd of uninformed enthusiasts had roared the women’s endeavours on.
The volume only increased after the final whistle with screeches of outraged vitriol aimed at the ‘privileged male’ system that had defeated them.
Supporters were apparently taking their cue from the anonymous complainant at the centre of the scrum.
She had set the tone for a kicking game by declaring at the outset that the opposition were, ‘Ulster f**king rugby scum with schoolboy rugby attitude times a million’.
She had made it clear that she had not been properly prepared for what happened, ‘I hadn’t even shaved my legs, I’d only tanned the bottom of them. I wasn’t up or ready for f**king anything.’
I could go on point scoring but I would rather kick for territory.
In my view, this contest should never have taken place. A befuddled and regretful young girl (with whom I have every sympathy) reconstructs from fragmented memories the activities of the drunken night before. She concludes she has been raped.
Elsewhere some young lads (with whom I find it harder to sympathise) awaken from the after effects of the same night and conclude that they are, ‘top shaggers’ and ‘total legends.’
They can’t both be right but they could both be wrong.
It is at this point that some form of mediation, if not arbitration, should surely take place.
Communication between the parties with wiser counsel brought to bear - a forum of sorts. A meeting of stakeholders, family, friends, employers etc.
A ‘without prejudice’ affair to seek understanding and clarification.
Instead, the reluctant anonymous complainant finds herself carried along on a tide with female confidantes, female medics and sexual health support staff, supportive and politically aware females in the criminal justice system.
Battle lines are drawn.
She is now a pawn in the bigger contest between women’s rights and apparent male privilege.
If not before, she is now a very real victim, a victim of gender politics and our adversarial systems.
This has been more than the cliche, ‘bruising encounter.’ This has been an absolute disaster.
It is not just that there are no winners. It is that everyone loses. Men and women alike.
David McCabe, Dromore, Co Down