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The constant sharing of intimate images of women without consent shines a light on how women are seen in our society: things to be looked at, owned and consumed. Objects.

In the #MeToo era, naive groups of people often declare that the treatment of women as purely sexual objects for men to consume is long gone. Other groups say this treatment has never even existed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Some even say women deserve their personal images shared without consent; if they took the picture in the first place, they were asking for it.

Following numerous incredibly painful rape cases in this country, healthcare scandals which throw female lives away and the Repeal movement, women have had to face emotional trauma in the Emerald Isle. Rape culture is alive and well in our society, yet most have been desensitised to it.

Every few days, a reminder rears its ugly head to show us what we can’t forget, to nudge us into submission and point out the fact that women today still have to protect ourselves at all times and we can’t forget it.

Today’s reminder comes from a Reddit page by the charming name of ‘Irish Sluts’. TheJournal.ie reported that a page was sharing intimate images of young women without their consent online, with sexually explicit commentary by the website’s users. No doubt derogatory language was chosen about the women’s body and appearance.

“The content includes portraits of families, social media posts, and images of women walking in public or in the gym, but there are also nude photographs taken in more intimate settings. Details of where the women live and where they attend college or school are also posted on the site,” it was reported, with the Garda Síochana confirming. Members of the group also made sure to request ‘nudes’ from counties all over the country, mentioning specific women by name.

One woman said that she was alerted about her image being used in the group when a male friend saw it in a WhatsApp chat and alerted her, she told TheJournal.ie. “I got a call from a friend of mine who said that my photo was being sent around lots of WhatsApp groups,” she said.

Speaking anonymously, the woman said she felt violated and “nearly got sick” when she discovered the Reddit page. The Gardaí can’t carry out much action unless you’re underage, and the advice is to actually contact the group itself to solve the matter. So essentially there is zero authority who can regain control over the private images of you and return them to the owner, making the internet an even more dangerous place.

This isn’t the first incident, of course, and it won’t be the last. ‘Revenge porn’ is alive and well; the habit of using sexually explicit images of an ex partner in order to use against them with malicious intent, such as posting them online or sending them to an employer.

A friend of another victim of this site told TheJournal.ie: “I’m not under any illusions that these types of things go on in parts of the internet, but this is very Ireland orientated and I can’t get my head around the fact that it happens so blatantly on a mainstream site like reddit that has businesses advertising on it, etc. People are posting personal details on some pictures, names, addresses, etc. It’s not sitting right with me that these girls can be put in this type of physical/mental danger without them knowing especially given some of the other things in the news cycle in the last few days.”

Brendan Howlin, Labour leader, has said that Ireland is extremely far behind when it comes to dealing with the issue of revenge porn. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill aims for a six-month prison sentence upon conviction, but is still before the Oireachtas. While time is ticking, the internet is abusing images of women all over Ireland.

Literally the only law protecting against the distribution of images such as these without permission is contained in the Non Fatal Offences Against The Person Act. There is a subsection of this act which deals with harassment but no specific laws in place to guard against revenge porn or unconsensual sharing of personal or explicit images.

What does this say about how the men of Ireland see us?

Most of us will be able to distinctly recall the infamous Belfast rape trial involving four Ulster Rugby players; Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson, Rory Harrison and Blane McIlroy. Whether you were team I Believe Her or not, the language used in the WhatsApp group featuring the four men about the alleged victim and Irish women in general was beyond disturbing.

Image: JOE.ie

Toxic masculinity, entitlement and objectification reeks from texts such as these, but why does society continue to believe that wealthy, white, heterosexual young men with privilege are incapable of rape and sexual assault? They discuss women as sex objects for their fetishization, and why wouldn’t they go any further than that? Humiliation is the first step to dehumanise a person. Once someone is dehumanised enough, it becomes easier and easier to mistreat them.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The #UCD200 became a huge scandal that spawned an investigation after claims of a Facebook group involving 200 UCD students who were sharing nonconsensual sexually explicit images of women without their knowledge were made public. The investigation found no evidence, but one of the most noteworthy aspects of the incident was how easily believable it was. This happens to women every single day, I have lost count of friends who have had private and intimate images of themselves shared without their consent; myself included.

The language used by Irish men is mirrored in the sexual assault trials and courtrooms; the recent Cork case involving a young woman who accused a man of raping her in an alley had her underwear used as evidence against her. A female barrister held up a lacy thong, and claimed that only a woman who WANTED to have sex would wear something like that.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Women are often the ones tearing down fellow women with language; toxic femininity is alive and well. We have been taught to compete with each other to win the attention, the approval of men. 

The language used to describe women, to portray them as either seductive prostitutes or prudes, ‘sluts’ or nuns, feeds the narrative that what you wear, how much you drink, and your sexual past plays a part in your victimhood. You can’t be a victim if you were asking for it, according to the courts of this nation.

Acquittal doesn’t mean innocence, as anyone who has experienced the Irish sexual violence criminal justice system understands more than they should have to. Why wouldn’t Irish men speak of women in such terms, when they won’t ever have to experience any consequences? Why wouldn’t they join in the lad banter, the ‘locker room talk’ if it leads to a boost in their pride, their status, their brotherhood?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Words have power, they have meaning. Language leads to action, action leads to harm, and most of the time the harm is suffered by Irish women. Why? The patriarchy, toxic masculinity, rape culture; all of it allows Irish men to feel a level of invincibility which encourages them. In Dublin, many of the ‘elite’ schools are segregated by gender; men and women at a young age with privilege only interact on nights out, at school discos most of the time. With alcohol and not many clothes covering them, women are deemed as useless without their looks, but a woman who is sexually provocative is a ‘slut’, a ‘whore’, ‘asking for it’. We are presumed guilty until proven innocent, handed double standards we can never beat, and fear for our safety the second it turns dark, much to the obliviousness of men.

Of course, rape and sexual assault occur where men are the victims, and find it incredibly difficult to speak about or get help due to the culture of masculinity where being a victim is shamed. Only by spreading awareness, and actual facts as well as sexual consent training and sexual education can we reduce the horrifying statistics.

I was given a single self-defence class at school. Just one. The main thing it taught me was that in the instance of rape, you are to yell the word, ‘fire’, because only then will someone come to offer aid.

A viral post on Facebook by a user named Drew McKenna shared a passage from Jackson Katz’ book named The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help. A prominent social researcher, he decided to test his audience on the ways which they protect themselves on a daily basis from sexual assault. The results were alarming, but not surprising.

The reaction from the male side is especially interesting;

“He first describes the reaction on the male side. “At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, “Nothing. I don’t think about it.'”

Of course, the women could talk all day about how they defend themselves from the threat of rape or sexual assault. “As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.” The replies were then arranged into a list, contrasting with the male answers. From holding your car keys between your fingers, never leaving drinks unattended, using a male voice on an answering machine, not wearing headphones in public, not using car parks or parking in dimly lit areas, not meeting a man in private on dates- it paints a horrible picture of the normality of female self-protection, and the total lack of awareness from the male point of view. More men than I can say have refused to walk me home, brought me a drink without watching what men around him were doing to it, spoken in a disgusting manner about women; all without realising that they were causing harm.

All men believe they are good.

“I moved on her like a b****, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. “I did try and f*** her.”

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

Many Irish men like to believe that Donald Trump is an anomaly, something to be laughed at, not feared. Irish women know better. The vast majority of us can report that we’ve been sexually harassed, one-in-four of us will report being sexually assaulted compared to one-in-71 men. A report by Union of Students Ireland (USI) in 2013 found that 1 in 7 people will experience some form of unwanted sexual contact during their time in college. The reports of femicide this year are equally terrifying, with the majority of cases occurring where the perpetrator was a husband, boyfriend or partner of the woman killed. 

The line between harassment and assault is easily crossed. Words are just the beginning.

Feature image; Everyday Feminism

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Diageo, the legendary company behind Guinness, has officially cancelled its sponsorship of London Irish Rugby Club over their choice to sign former Ulster and Ireland out-half Paddy Jackson.

We all remember the rugby star after the infamous and harrowing Belfast rape trial of last year, where he was acquitted. Three other men who had been charged in relation to the incident were also acquitted.

Stuart Olding and Jackson both had their contacts cancelled in the wake of the trial, after their Whatsapp messages showed vile, misogynistic language about women involved in allegedly consensual sex acts with them.

Seeing as London Irish markets themselves as a family club, we're not surprised fans were angry when a man who discusses 'spit roasts' and says phrases like, "Any sluts get f*cked?" was signed on to play for them.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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In a statement to The Irish Times, Diageo said: “We have met with the club to express our concerns. Their recent decision is not consistent with our values and so we have ended our sponsorship.”

Diageo had recently said that it had "serious concerns" regarding Jackson's signing, but failed to reference the sponsorship deal, which has been in place for 27 years.

Another London Irish sponsor, Cash Converters, terminated its relationship with the club. On Twitter, the company said; “As a company, we are committed to the highest possible standards when it comes to our investments in any sponsorships and collaborations.

"As a result of a detailed and thorough review of our support for London Irish, we have decided to discontinue our association with the club.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Last night, London Irish said its management is “understandably disappointed that Diageo has chosen not to renew its sponsorship agreement with the club, and particularly the manner in which the company has chosen to do so”.

“The club has always respected the right for everyone to have an opinion, and their right to express that opinion,” the statement said.

“London Irish has been open and honest with all of its sponsors, including offering to meet Diageo’s senior management in Dublin in May, 2019. This offer was not taken up.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The management also said the club would move on “without the support of Diageo, who have chosen to stand down after a nearly 30-year association with the club”.

“It is regretful that this relationship has ended in the manner that it has,” the statement said. Declan Kidney, head coach at London Irish and former Ireland coach, signed Paddy Jackson and defended the decision last year;

“We are fully aware that there was a court case that Paddy was involved in but that has  been  dealt  with. What  has gone on in the past had gone on in the past and we are just trying to move on to the future."

Feature image: Instagram/@glenmoremanor

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#IBelieveHer has been trending on Twitter this afternoon following news of Paddy Jackson’s signing to the London Irish rugby club.

The public has taken to the social media platform to express their disgust and shock at the news of the sportsman’s signing.

Understandably, people are feeling frustrated, hurt and simply distraught by the news, proving that accusations made against Jackson didn’t ‘ruin his life’ as many claimed following the non-guilty verdict.

One Twitter user wrote: “This is how rape culture manifests. This is how we protect rapists over survivors. This is why people don’t come forward. When asking how to protect women, start by looking in the f**king mirror.”

“Shocked and disappointed by this news. This is a player who should never work again after the way that poor woman was treated. Acquitted of rape, but what came out of that trial shows he is an appalling example of humanity,” said another.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I Believe Her trended following the harrowing Belfast rape trial in 2018, proving that the major consensus disagreed with the result.

It was Ireland’s #MeToo moment and a sign that times were changing. Women and men across the Emerald Isle rallied together to fight for victims who many failed to respect, help and believe.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Jackson and Olding may not have been found guilty, but that won’t silence the #IBelieveHer movement. It won’t stop us from supporting victims, offering them the support they so crucially need and believing them when they share stories of their trauma.

We believe her.

 

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London Irish have just confirmed that Paddy Jackson has signed for their team ahead of the upcoming 2019/20 rugby season.

Jackson was acquitted of rape in the now-infamous Belfast case last year alongside Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding, and joined Perpignan last summer.

Both players had their national-team contracts revoked by the Irish Rugby Football Union after the social media storm surrounding offensive, misogynistic texts messages sent into a group chat.

Olding and Jackson were accused of embodying the middle-class toxic masculinity of the country through their sexually-degrading comments about women.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Jackson is now linking up with London Irish's director of rugby Declan Kidney and head coach Les Kiss, who both worked with him in their time in Ireland.

There's a history between them; Kidney awarded Jackson his first international cap back in 2013, while Kiss worked with the fly-half with both the Ireland national team and Ulster.

"Players of the calibre of Paddy Jackson do not become available very often and both myself and Les are looking forward to working with him in the future" Kidney said.

"He is a player with proven international quality who we feel will add value to our squad, and it is pleasing that Paddy sees London Irish as a part of his future."

Speaking on the move, Jackson said: "I’m delighted to be joining London Irish next season at such an exciting and pivotal time for everyone involved with the club. London Irish have a clear vision for where they want to be and I look forward to being part of it."

He apologised following the trial for his disrespectful conduct towards the woman who accused him of rape; "The criticism of my behaviour is fully justified and I know I have betrayed the values of my family and those of the wider public."

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how the general Irish public respond to the latest controversial news. 

Feature image: Instagram/@_thesmokingjacket

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A survey carried out by Newstalk has released results stating that half of Irish people would not report rape to the Gardaí if they knew it happened to someone else.

Newstalk’s Women in Ireland Survey shows that while eight out of ten people would report a rape if it was committed against them, when it came to somebody else the reports shifted entirely.

Red C conducted the survey for Newstalk in order to examine sexual violence in the country, and it found that women were significantly less likely to report an incident of rape of someone other than themselves. 

Only four out of ten women said they would report an incident, and six out of ten men, meaning that women are more likely to remain quiet about sexual violence occurring to a friend, acquaintance, family member, or even a stranger.

The survey also found that twice as many women as men have experienced gender discrimination, and three quarters of people would report sexual harassment at work.

The Women in Ireland survey enquired about if participants would report other sexual assault incidences such as groping, indecent exposure, sexual harassment at work or non-consensual touching.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Apparently, three quarters of people would report indecent exposure or sexual harassment while at work, and two thirds of people would give a statement regarding groping to An Garda Síochána.

Regarding discrimination, twice as many women as men said they have experienced prejudicial treatment with younger people.

Interestingly, people who are living in Dublin are evidently more likely to have experienced gender discrimination in their lives.

Overall, the report shows troubling responses from our country, which has had two major rape trial controversies in the last year alone which have shed light on the worrying ways in which our justice system treats sexual assault victims.

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"The last thing I want is a girl crying leaving my house."- Paddy Jackson

The Belfast Rape Trial led to shockingly large media coverage, emotional social media comment and outraged street protest.

The nine-week trial ended in late March 2018, when the jury of nine men and three women unanimously served not guilty verdicts on all charges to all four men involved.

Ex-Ulster and Ireland rugby players Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were found not guilt of rape and sexual assault at a house party in June 2016, leading to an onslaught of widespread criticism of how trials such as these are conducted.

Defendants Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were also found not guilty on all charges, with Irish rugby captain Rory Best facing critique for attending the trial itself. The hashtag #notmycaptain trended on Irish Twitter.

Two leading barristers in the case feature in the documentary, Toby Hedworth QC for the Prosecution and Brendan Kelly QC for Paddy Jackson.

Image: Belfast Live

The trial ended on March 28, but has remained in the headlines all-year-round, specifically regarding the #MeToo movement, as well as the recent rape trial in Cork.

Both trials have generated upsetting levels of scandal due to the introduction of female underwear as evidence. The Belfast trial saw the young woman's bloodied thong passed around the courtroom with 100 members of the public.

Las week, #ThisIsNotConsent went viral after the news hit regarding a rape trial in court where her underwear was used as evidence of her apparent consent.

Ruth Coppinger TD produced a thong in the middle of a Dáil debate to make a point about the treatment of witnesses in rape trials.

The Gillen Review Panel in Northern Ireland was published this week, and recommended numerous changes around serious sexual assault trials. 

In the documentary, RTÉ One also spoke to members of the public who attended the Belfast rape trial. 

Fair warning, Documentary On One: Notes From A Belfast Rape Trial is a very difficult listen. Narrated by Emer Horgan and Ronan Kelly, the listener of the documentary is faced with some quite graphic testimony.

That jury decided that they could not say, beyond reasonable doubt, that rape had taken place in Paddy Jackson’s house on that June night in 2016. 

Anyone who feels affected by any issues contained within this documentary, please visit the RTÉ Support page for Helpline information

The first broadcast will be tomorrow, Saturday November 24  2018, on RTÉ Radio 1 at 2pm.

Feature image: JOE.co.uk

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Nationwide rallies will take place tomorrow to protest victim blaming in the Irish courts following a controversial trial verdict in Cork.

Irish women have been sharing viral images of their underwear in response to the rape trial, in which a Cork barrister used a 17-year-old girl's underwear to argue that she had given the man accused of rape consent.

The 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping the young woman in a Cork laneway; a result which has caused outrage all over the country.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The barrister representing the man, Elizabeth O’Connell SC, asked jurors to take into account the underwear which the teenager had been wearing at th time of the alleged rape.

She claimed the woman's "thong with a lace front" suggested that the woman "… was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone."

The Socialist Feminist organisation ROSA have responded by organised multiple rallies all over Ireland following the result.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Through their Facebook account, the group called the reference to the underwear a "disgrace" and are campaigning for an end to "victim blaming in the courts."

"These lines of character accusation and victim blaming are unfortunately a common tactic used in cases before the courts relating to sexual violence," ROSA stated.

"The judiciary has proven itself time and time again to be utterly damaging to survivors of sexual violence to seek justice."

The hashtag #thisisnotconsent has appeared all over every social media site, alongside photos of women's underwear in all forms.

There is a huge amount of anger online regarding the trial, which is especially poignant following an emotional year for women. The Belfast rape trial in March also caused a backlash nationwide when all four rugby players involved in the incident were acquitted of rape.

The '#IBelieveHer' hashtag is also spreading throughout Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in solidarity with the Corkwoman.

Protests in Dublin and Cork will begin at 1pm tomorrow, the rally on O'Connell street will meet at the Spire. On Wednesday November 14, a Limerick rally will begin at the earlier time of 12.30pm, and the Waterford protest will take place at 3:30pm on Friday November 16.

Check out the Ruth Coppinger TD and ROSA – Socialist Feminist Movement Facebook event page for more information.

Feature image: girlcrew.com

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Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will be financially compensated after being dropped by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby. 

The news comes after the sporting organisations released a joint statement yesterday confirming that both players would have their contracts revoked following the Belfast rape trial. 

According to the Sunday Independent, Paddy Jackson will be paid off by the IRFU, in a compromise that will see him walk way with a figure "close to his contract value," while Stuart Olding is also expected to receive a undisclosed payment. 

Exact figures are set to remain confidential, however the Irish Mirror reports that the both players were on contracts of between €100,000 and €300,000 per year.

Both men were acquitted of rape and sexual assault in Belfast last month. 

A spokesperson for the IRFU told the Sunday Independent: "The substantive issue here is that the players' contracts have been revoked with immediate effect, beyond that we have no further comment to make."

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Today, The Irish Times has reported that an advertisement has appeared in a local newspaper, calling for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to be banned from Ulster and Irish Rugby.

A group of 139 people, who have called themselves “concerned fans”, got money together in a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the advertisement in today's copy of the Belfast Telegraph.

The open letter reads: 

“To the leadership of the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby…The content of social media exchanges involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was reprehensible.

“Such behaviour falls far beneath the standard that your organisations represent and as such we demand that neither of these men represents Ulster or Ireland now or at any point in the future.

“We expect an answer to this letter.”

It is signed off: “Yours, concerned fans.”

Last week in Belfast, Mr Olding and Mr Jackson were found not guilty of raping the same woman back in 2016. Mr Jackson was also found not guilty of a charge of sexual assault.

Two other men who were also involved in the case were acquitted. 

Following the result of the trial, both Ulster Rugby and the IRFU said that a review process was under way to assess the futures of the two players.

A number of public demonstrations were held in cities across Ireland following the trial verdict, calling for a change in media reporting and sex education in schools.

As a result of these protests, the idea for the advertisement was born. 

According to the report by The Irish Times, 'the crowdfunding campaign to publish the ad exceeded its €2,000 target within 36 hours.'

One of the organisers of the crowdfunded ad told the Belfast Telegraph: “A friend and I felt, like many people around the country do, that the WhatsApp exchanges as revealed in court goes against any moral standard of what can be considered acceptable behaviour.

“These players have a national and international platform and the IRFU and Ulster Rugby have a role to play in enforcing moral standards.”

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Protests have been organised across the country today in the wake of the not-guilty verdict handed out by the jury to Paddy Jackson and his teammate Stuart Olding.

Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were also found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Public opinion clearly shows an opposing view to the verdict, with the #IBelieveHer trending in Ireland, and now rallies have been organised in opposition to the verdict.

Rallies have been organised outside the high court in Belfast tomorrow, with solidarity rallies being held in Limerick and Dublin at 12.30pm

‘This event is for those who cannot make the rally at Belfast High Court. Brings signs and placards to show your support,’ reads the Dublin rally Facebook event.

‘There is a lot of anger and upset among women who have observed the treatment of the victim in this case and found it harrowing and re-traumatising.’

‘Let’s show our solidarity to this woman and all women who have been mistreated by the justice system and the way it deals with sexual crimes.’

More information regarding the rallies is available via Facebook.

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