The Oxford English Dictionary defines rape culture as “A society… whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalising or trivialising sexual assault and abuse”. Wikipedia adds: “Behaviours commonly associated… include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.”
“I just wanted to support him, just let him know he was not alone,” said Father Sean Sheehy, then-parish priest of Castlegregory, Co Kerry, after he joined a group of up to fifty people as they queued in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court to shake hands with Danny Foley.
Foley (35) had just been convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman a year earlier. Foley – then employed as a bouncer – had met his victim (then 22) at a Listowel nightclub and bought her a drink. After drinking it, she became incapacitated. (Later, she remembered trying to stop Foley from removing her clothing.)
Gardai found her in an alleyway, beside a skip, naked from the waist down, semi-conscious and covered in cuts and bruises. Foley was crouching over her. Foley told the Guards, “I came around here for a slash and I saw yer wan lying on the ground.”
CCTV footage showed Foley carrying her to the alleyway, so he changed his story, saying that she took off her trousers and asked for sex.
The jury convicted him. In his sentencing remarks, Judge Donagh McDonagh said Foley’s allegations about mutual sexual acts were designed “to add insult to injury” and “to demean and denigrate her further in the eyes of the jury and the public”.
Foley got a seven year sentence with the last two years suspended. (This being Ireland, he was out in three and a half years.)
Father Sheehy said “it seemed to me an extremely harsh sentence”. He went on national radio to extol Danny Foley’s decency.
Of Foley’s victim, Father Sheehy said: “I don’t want to make any judgment on her at all, but obviously the whole situation must have been embarrassing, for the police to happen upon them and what-not. She’s the mother of a young child as well and, you know, that in itself doesn’t look great.”