A female lawmaker stood in Irish parliament Tuesday and pulled a pair of lacy thong underwear from her sleeve. This "might seem embarrassing," MP Ruth Coppinger began. But "how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at … her underwear being shown in a court?" It was a move spurred by the Nov. 5 acquittal of a 27-year-old man in the rape of a 17-year-old, per the BBC. The man argued the sexual contact that occurred along a roadside in Cork was consensual, and in her closing address, his lawyer asked the jury whether the evidence ruled out "the possibility that [the victim] was attracted to the defendant" and "open to … being with someone," per the Irish Examiner. "You have to look at the way she was dressed," she said. "She was wearing a thong with a lace front."
The jury delivered a not-guilty verdict in 90 minutes, reports the Irish Independent. Though she didn't question the verdict, the head of Dublin's Rape Crisis Centre afterwards called for court reforms, noting rape trials often focus on what a victim was wearing, per the Independent. Responding to Coppinger's statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar noted "it doesn't matter what you wear … nobody who's a victim of rape is ever to blame for the crime committed on them." His words have been echoed by women sharing photos of their underwear on Twitter using #ThisIsNotConsent, and by protesters in cities across Ireland. "It's terrifying to think that someone could get away with rape because of a piece of clothing," one participant in Dublin tells DublinLive. "A piece of material can't consent at all." (Elsewhere, a rape victim who gave birth now faces prison time.)