Is the Irish Independent a Mouthpiece for Radical Feminism? Stand Up Ellen Coyne!

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An article by Ellen Coyne on April 24  claimed that victims of domestic violence were forced to stay in refuges for over a year, due to a lack of affordable accommodation.

While the fact that there are no refuge spaces at all for male victims was mentioned she did not ask what became of these men, many of whom find themselves sleeping in their cars. Nor did she inquire into the ratio of male to female victims.

Two more articles by Coyne appeared  on May 25 on how NWC and the Government got the referendums so badly wrong. There is an attempt to shift the blame here and offer some excuses for the council: Orla O’Connor said the Government had to take the blame for running a bad campaign but admits failures on the part of the NWC; that the NWC had objected to both the Government’s proposed wording, and the plan to hold the vote on International Women’s Day.

Ellen Coyne

In the second much longer article Coyne is keen to tell us that this was O’Connor’s first in-depth interview since the bruising defeat. O’Connor admits  that NWC didn’t give enough weight to other key considerations, the first being that the local and European elections are being held this year. She says that this made it impossible to get cross-party support.

This is self-serving guff. Every party supported the referendums bar the smallest ones. The real opposition came from a few members of  the Seanad. Also the NWC appointed itself to lead the Yes campaign, as it was confident of success given the early polls, thus promising another victory for the NWC.

What annoyed O’Connor the most about the referendum was the perception that, by arguing against an amendment that some perceived as recognising the work that women do in the home, the NWCI was only interested in the rights of women who wish to go out and work.

Oh dear!, reality has caught up with NWC. When has it ever considered those women who wish to remain at home and their needs? Surveys have shown that a majority of  women would like to have more children if circumstances allowed.

When has the NWC ever sought to find out what the stay at home mums want?  Such as fully transferable personal allowances between married parents; how to preserve the two-parent family and  family-friendly policies.

Research has  consistently shown that children of  married  couples do better across a whole range of indicators; such families are more stable. The parenting website Netmums’ biggest issue with feminism was to restore the value of motherhood.

Yet the NWC has never evinced the slightest concern for such families.

The article on rape

But it was the Coyne article on rape of May 23 which aroused our ire, so full  was it of egregious bile. We sent a response to Frank Coughlan, Opinion Editor of the Independent,  but did not even get an acknowledgment. What follows is the gist of that response.

The tone is set from the outset in an uncompromisingly aggressive manner: As most people know, getting a rapist into court in the first place already requires a victim to defy the odds.

Before a trial even begins for Coyne there is a rapist and a victim. This tone is maintained throughout: a shrieking, visceral, hysterical note maintained at a high pitch.

Rape must be one of the only crimes where the severity of it is almost inversely proportional to its prosecution rates.

 The prosecution rates are constantly used to imply that many alleged rapes are never brought to trial.

Actually the conviction rate for rape, the ratio of convictions to the total number of cases brought to trial, is very high, 83% as reported in 2020.

Censorship, Conformity

In the majority of cases the DPP does not seek a trial because of the lack of evidence or doubts about the complainant’s evidence  or inconsistencies in evidence.
Not all rapes are of the same severity following the passage of the Sexual Offences Act of 2017. The definition of rape was greatly expanded by the 2017 Act with the introduction of consent. Previously the public idea of rape centred on a woman being attacked in a lonely place by a stranger, a horrendous violation of her person. Now many alleged rapes occur between people who know each other, there may be no violence, intimacy starts and it is a question of how far it goes with consent. The problem for men was set down in detail in a very perceptive article by Niamh Horan in 2019.  Horan comments: So try being a man initiating sex in that context [the modern day]. And that’s even before we add alcohol into the mix. Then it becomes a minefield.

She asks another pertinent question: What happens if a woman initially seems to be a willing participant in a sexual encounter but can’t remember it the following day?

Is that rape?

A typical instance of the shift to victim-centred prosecution law is the constant use of the word “victim” to describe the complainant, before and during the trial itself.

It appears in the Victims of Crime Act 2017, where victim is defined and declared to be independent of any offence having to be established.

Coyne constantly uses the word “victim” throughout, a word that assumes the guilt of the accused.

The danger has been alluded to by Angela Rafferty QC, chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association who warned about: “sexual offence cases where the complainant is labelled victim before a trial has even started”.

Consent and the Sexual Offences Act 2017

In section 48 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, the Act of 1990 is amended by the substitution of a new section for section 9. A few key elements of consent are:

9. (1) A person consents to a sexual act if he or she freely and voluntarily agrees to engage in that act.

(2) A person does not consent to a sexual act if—

(c) he or she is incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or some other drug,

(4) Consent to a sexual act may be withdrawn at any time before the act begins, or in the case of a continuing act, while the act is taking place.
(5) Any failure or omission on the part of a person to offer resistance to an act does not of itself constitute consent to that act.

Clauses (4) and (5) are problematic. Suppose one party is initially willing, how is the other to be sure that this continues throughout if that person does not make any resistance, since it cannot be assumed that silence does imply consent.

How many consents must one party get from the other to be on the safe side?

Another issue is that the woman may drink as much as she likes, she has no responsibility for what happens, but the man is held responsible even if intoxicated.

Has the notion of consent helped clarify when rape occurs? It is hard to argue this since the woman is not required to say “No” if she does not want sex.

There can be a subtle shifting of the burden of proof to the man to prove he did have consent, a denial of due process. Yet another issue concerns reporting of alleged assault.

The woman who apparently gave her consent the night before can change her mind next morning and bring a rape charge against the man. She can still bring such a charge at some indefinite point in the future, if on reflection she believes she did not give consent or was too intoxicated to do so.

The Emotional Argument ad Nauseam

In Coyne’s article the emotional argument is used continually: Rape victims who endure a trial are forced to exist in this kind of artificial interpretation of their own lives and the abuse they have suffered. 

In a rape trial, a victim not being believed can liberate her attacker.

Perhaps she was mistaken about what happened or confused  or could not remember details.

The greatest fear of every sexual violence victim is not being believed.

Here the appeal is to # BelieveWomen. She has no absolute right to be believed, no more than the accused who denies the charge. That is what trials are designed to uncover.

Coyne then refers to the use of counselling notes in the trial. A new section of the Criminal Evidence Act sets out the grounds on which the court should grant access to records, in cases where a victim does not consent to them being used.

The campaign against such use has been waged for many years by the DRCC.

Coyne believes that  the counselling notes should not be used: To use her notes against her in a trial is to kind of force a victim to cross-examine herself.

It is not. Any statements made by a complainant whether to police, a doctor or counsellor can be scrutinised for inconsistencies and this is why counselling notes can help an accused.

Once again the emotional argument goes into overdrive: The worst experience of a victim’s life is pored over, with every instance of abuse and violence recategorised — not in order of harm, but in order of chance of success. 

Nowhere in this litany is there any concern for the accused person, who just might be innocent and the right to a fair trial.

The complainant may not remember she gave consent, the events of the night may be a haze in her mind.

Wrongful Convictions

For a wrongly convicted man the consequences are horrifying. The average sentence for rape is over ten years and he is further branded a rapist for life. False accusations do occur; there are now many groups which mark September 9 every year as Falsely Accused Day.

Partner Abuse Vol 3 No. 2 2012

There are cases where the police have serious doubts about the truth of the complainant’s evidence and suspect a false accusation has been made. Very few of these are followed up perhaps because of the hard reality that a conviction for rape weighs more with the police than one for false accusation.

On May 25 a letter appeared which confirms the suspicion that Coyne was prompted to write the article. The letter was signed by Rachel Morrogh, CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

Even that doyenne of feminism Germaine Greer in her 2019 book On Rape  reckons that many so- called rapes are just cases of “bad sex” while recognising that there are very violent cases.

She argued that what most women thought of as rape was “just lazy” and “insensitive” sex, a low-level, rubbish sort of erotic encounter like pulling the wrong people in bars and regretting it.

Appeal

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