What might rape culture look like in Ireland?

Things that cause rape

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.”

December 2009:

“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-notShe’s the mother of a young child as well and, you know, that in itself doesn’t look great.”

Please read on in The Avondhu


In Ireland, a man can actually confess to rape and still serve no time in prison


MAGNUS MEYER HUSTVEIT wrote to his former partner and told her that he had, over a year, regularly raped and sexually assaulted her while she was asleep and incapable of giving consent. He had, he told her, been using her “body for (his) gratification”.

Handing down a seven year sentence on Monday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said that he had to consider that there might have been no prosecution if not for Hustveit’s confession. “In truth, the case comes here today out of his own mouth,” the judge said, before suspending the entire sentence.

Rape is the second-most serious crime on our statutes, after murder. Imagine a judge lending such weight to a confession of murder that it mitigated the entire case to a suspended sentence.

Rape is the second-most serious crime in our country due to – as Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says – “the dreadful, and far too often, lifelong debilitating effects it can have on the victim’s life”.

Rape is the second-most serious crime in Ireland and yet it seems a man can actually confess to rape here and still serve no time in prison.

Please read more in my column in TheJournal.ie

To Ireland’s “pro-life” Catholiban, all rights end at rape

Helen Lovejoy Syndrome” is what Alan Flanagan calls it. That’s when people who are more moral than everyone else attempt to win every argument by screeching “Oh won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?” Divorce? Children. Gays? Children. Abortion? Now you’re talking.

Generally speaking, these children tend not to be real children. They are usually theoretical, hypothetical hit-me-now-with-the-child-in-me-arms children. Real children tend to be complicated and unpredictable. From their hold-the-line-at-any-cost approach on “Tonight with Vincent Browne”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that some our more dead-eyed moral bullies would be appalled at the sight of an actual, real child.

Well, they have a real child this time, Ireland’s Helen Lovejoys, a tiny baby in an incubator. That baby’s mother, barely more than a child herself, says she was raped in her home country and, when she found herself pregnant in the middle of Ireland’s barbaric Direct Provision system, she became the central figure in Ireland’s latest horror story

Three decades after Catholic fundamentalists got their hands on Ireland’s Constitution and planted their 8th Amendment as a bulwark against the oncoming tide of liberalism, a young rape victim can be denied an abortion and can be forced to stay pregnant against her will until such time as the pregnancy is (barely) on the cusp of viability outside of the womb and then she can be carved open by C-section.  

Bad enough that we have to listen, in the interests of “balance”, to fanatics who opposed at every opportunity the free availability of both sex education and contraception and who consider the Morning After Pill as monstrous as a late-term abortion, but now we have to listen too as they crow on social media and on the airwaves at what they see as a victory.

What has driven me up the wall this past week (blocking out for a second that this poor woman’s wishes were ignored and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was interpreted in the most brutal way imaginable) is the vicious, pathetic and downright evil suggestion by the crawthumpers in the “pro-life” movement that those of us who believe a woman’s body is her own would wish dead the baby currently struggling for its life.

Having a mindset founded on a default setting of absolute certainty and the burning belief that God has a Holy Plan (and that it’s a baby as soon as Daddy gives Mammy a knowing look after their second glass of shandy) means that in the warped minds of the Catholiban everyone else is as capable of abandoning a child’s rights once it is born as they are.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that what is at the heart of fundamentalist Catholic “pro-life” thinking is not really so much angels dancing around the head of a zygote but rather what is now known as slut-shaming. Maybe it’s not so much caring about babies, whether they are born or not, but rather about the warped desire to ensure that any woman having sex pays for her sin. Perhaps that’s why it’s a baby and it’s always a baby. Rape? Incest? Non-viable pregnancy? Just watch those dead eyes.

I desperately hope that baby lives. I hope she or he enjoys robust good health and, more importantly, outrageous happiness. I hope that baby knows love and joy and better again silliness. I hope that baby has a life as big as the sky.

This in no way affects my prayer that a terribly young woman, (I understand she has barely turned 18,) monstrously abused not once but over again, and more than one of those times by the Irish State, will in time be able to reclaim a sense of her own self, a sense of her own body and a sense of her own life. I hope against hope she can again define herself as herself.

Not being as morally-stunted in our thinking as those who can no longer remember whether they claim that God thinks for them or that they think for God means that some of us can care about the baby while still believing the mother should not have been raped and should not either have been forced against her will to remain pregnant.

Breda O’Brien of the right-wing, Catholic fundamentalist cabal the Iona “Institute” (quote-marks my own because words should actually mean something) says in her Irish Times column of the 23rd of August “the right to choose ends long before the right to end someone else’s life”. That clears that up then.

Because the “pro-life” believe it’s a full human life at the moment of conception, then it’s a baby at the moment the rapist fulfils God’s Holy Plan. So what Breda is actually saying is the right to choose ends at rape.

Here’s my question. If forcing a rape victim to remain pregnant is in the end a good thing because, look, a baby, then might it be morally wrong to interrupt a rape? After all, if you’re not “pro-life”, then who are you to know the intricacies of God’s Holy Plan?

I’m going to Hell for asking that, I’d imagine. Mark Twain was right: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company”.

Donal O’Keeffe