Thursday 16 August 2018

Brendan O'Connor: We must teach young men to call out bad behaviour

The rape trial poses a lot of challenging questions. But in a strange way Stuart Olding provides one answer, says Brendan O'Connor

REACTION: Julia Welc and Leah Dolan, from Clondalkin, at the rally held at City Hall yesterday. There has been a huge outpouring of support for the complainant in the Belfast case since the trial.Photo: INM
REACTION: Julia Welc and Leah Dolan, from Clondalkin, at the rally held at City Hall yesterday. There has been a huge outpouring of support for the complainant in the Belfast case since the trial.Photo: INM
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

At what point, you wonder, did people decide they needed to see the picture of the alleged victim. What was it? Could they not conjure the images of the various versions of events properly without her face? Or did people need to see her so they could see what type she was? Did they need a picture before they could pass judgment properly and decide for themselves what had gone on?

You can't blame people for looking when the pictures purporting to be the complainant were sent around. We already had every other intimate detail from this evening, or various versions of it. We talked about it incessantly. We all had theories. A favourite was to speculate at what point the complainant had decided she didn't like what was happening. Everyone had their own theory on that. As the evidence unfolded day by day people would change their views on the outcome. It was like a real-life Netflix drama that the whole country was bingeing on together. Or a Making a Murderer-style podcast. Some people would even get antsy on days where there was no new evidence to chew over. We criticise young people for seeing everything through the lens of social media, or porn, or shoot 'em up games. But the fact is that many of us saw this case through the lens of serial drama, a whodunnit.

There were, of course, lots of people with huge empathy, especially young women who had been victims of sexual assault, which, we are finding out, is far more women than we think. And there were those who were interested in the social, sexual, cultural and legal ramifications. As a journalist, you tell yourself you are following this because it is news, and because you are trying to figure out what it tells us about ourselves and the culture of this generation.

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