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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Clothes worn by rape victims at the time of their attacks go on display at Dublin exhibition

Leona O'Callaghan, (left) founder of Survivors Support Anonymous, and Hazel Larkin of Action Against Sexual Violence Ireland, hold items of clothing from the 'Not Consent' exhibition which takes place in 'Street 66' in Dublin's city centre. The exhibition features clothing worn by victims of abuse at the time they were assaulted. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Leona O'Callaghan, (left) founder of Survivors Support Anonymous, and Hazel Larkin of Action Against Sexual Violence Ireland, hold items of clothing from the 'Not Consent' exhibition which takes place in 'Street 66' in Dublin's city centre. The exhibition features clothing worn by victims of abuse at the time they were assaulted. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Clothes worn by rape victims at the time of their attacks have gone on display as part of a protest exhibition in Dublin.

The items in the Not Consent collection in city centre bar Street 66 include the Holy Communion dress of a child victim of sexual assault.

The exhibition comes amid ongoing debate on how rape trials are conducted in the courts.

Controversy erupted earlier this month following a case in Co Cork where a defence barrister referred to the 17-year-old complainant's thong during a trial, in which a man was acquitted of rape.

That sparked intense public and political discourse on whether it is appropriate to place relevance on what an alleged victim was wearing during sex crime trials and whether there is culture of victim blaming in Irish courts.

Rape victim Leona O'Callaghan, whose childhood attacker was jailed earlier this month for 17 years, attended the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday evening.

She said all the items of clothing on display shared only one common link.

"The only common thread between all the outfits on display today, we had communion dresses, we had lingerie, we had boxer shorts, the only common thread is that the person who attacked us while we were wearing them were rapists, there is no other common thread," she said.

"It's a good and strong exhibition, but there is no pattern, because clothes do not matter."

Hazel Larkin, from Action Against Sexual Violence Ireland, said the collection was designed to challenge the "dominate cultural narrative" around consent.

"We really need to stand up and say 'no more, enough'," she said.

"This is not where the shame and the blame belong, it does not belong to the victim, it belongs absolutely, solely and completely and only to the perpetrator."

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