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“The young lads went overboard but this is what young lads do on occasion. They have suffered far too much.”

This was a comment written by Billy Keane, in the comment section of The Irish Independent, in the wake of the Ballyragget scandal.

In case you need a bit of refreshing on the Ballyragget case, a scandal erupted in the small Kilkenny village after some photos of the intermediate hurling team celebrating a club victory went viral.

There were strippers involved, and claims that one of them, Fifi, was paid for performing a sex act on a player.

But of course, instead of being thoroughly investigated for their viral (literally thousands of people saw the pictures and videos) misconduct, the men (not boys, not “young lads”, but grown-ass men) were given nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

This culture of ‘boys will boys’ and ‘it’s just a bit of craic’ is a cover for a much deeper misogyny that has reared its ugly head in Ireland recently. We’ve had enough, it’s time for Ireland’s #TimesUp moment.

If the trial of four rugby players, including Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, has shown us anything it’s that ‘lad culture’ is strong in sport- and that sport will stop at nothing to protect its own.

Let me preface this by saying that I have absolutely nothing against rugby or the GAA. Sport is a fantastic way of bringing families, communities and entire countries together. It is a treasured social outlet for many men and women. Professional and dedicated sportspeople deserve our highest respect, but that does not mean that they are above the law, despite their acquittal of all charges clearly stating otherwise. 

Male GAA and rugby stars command the same amount of notoriety and power, as film stars and Hollywood hotshots do in the United States. We’re a small nation, so to make it big, most of our actors and musicians head for the bright lights of the States or London. But one thing we refuse to export are sportspeople.

In rugby, our national team have taken on Goliaths like England, France and the All Blacks, and we’ve won. This is an immense source of Irish pride, and it’s hard not to feel something when our team is given the Six Nations or places in the World Cup.

Those men (and women, the ladies team deserve far more recognition than they get) are representing us, they are Ireland on the pitch.

So, what happens when one of our stars is accused of rape? The “lads only club” kicks in.

Lad culture and rugby are synonymous. Don’t believe me? Ross O’Carroll-Kelly created an entire series about it.

According to a report published by the National Union of Students in the UK, Lad Culture in universities is damaging and sexist. Lad Culture can be defined as a version of masculinity that promotes pack mentality, excessive drinking, multiple sexual partners and overtly homophobic, sexist and aggressive language in the form of “banter”.

While the study focuses on Lad Culture in universities, it does note the connection between sports and ‘laddisms’.

“‘Lad Culture’ was thought to be particularly influential in the social side of university life,” states the report.

“Extracurricular activities and sports in particular were singled out as key sites, and it was reported that sexism in such environments could spill over into sexual harassment and humiliation.”

This ‘banter’, while explicitly sexual and violent is usually dismissed as “just a bit of craic”. Speaking out about it or challenging offensive sexual speak leaves us to open to being called “dry”, “hysterical”, or even worse, “one of those man-hating feminists”.

Women, and men, uncomfortable with these laddisms are left to suffer in silence- or even become compliant and join in on the ‘banter’.

The ‘banter’ flying about the Whatsapp group the morning after the aforementioned alleged rape further proves this.

The morning after the acts took place, one of the rugby players posted a selfie of himself with three female party-goers, captioned “Love Belfast sluts.” 

Charming. 

A friend replied, “Boys, did you lads spit roast lasses? Legends!! … why are we all such legends?” to which the man responded: “I know. It’s ridiculous.” 

The conversation continued on a similar vein, with one message asking if the women were “Brassers”- Belfast slang for prostitutes.

“Two days after the alleged rape, at 11.28am,” writes The Irish Independent. “Mr McIlroy sent a message to a friend stating: ‘Pumped a bird with Jacko on Monday. Roasted her. Then another on Tuesday night.’”

To be honest, they sound more like they were describing a chicken dinner, than actual sex. 

Image result for me too

Rape jokes and other such lad culture tripe serve to dehumanise women, completely disregarding any kind of consent. She is no longer a woman, sister, daughter, friend. She is a “bird” waiting to be “pumped” and “roasted”.

The fact that that defence lawyer called these texts a "titillating sideshow", only proves the power of misogynistic power of "banter" over a woman's right to speak her truth. 

This is not just ‘banter’ between team mates, it’s symptomatic of a wider disregard for consent. In the words of Stuart Olding, “I didn't force myself on her. I presume she wanted it to happen. She didn't have to stay, she could have left.”

Okay, let’s break this one down.

They’re rugby players, it’s literally their job to be as physically strong as possible. By his own admission, Olding had consumed “eight cans of Carlsberg beer, four pints of Guinness, two gins, five vodka and lemonades and three shots of tequila and sambuca.” Combine an athletics physical strength with that amount of alcohol and even what might not seem to be any force for them could literally crush a normal person.

Now to, “I presume she wanted it to happen.”

No. Just, no.

He “presumed” she wanted to have sex with him, because why wouldn't she? They’ve constantly been told that they’re brilliant since they were tackling a teddy in their cribs. In Ireland, the recognition that sports receive is the equivalent to a Hollywood A-lister. Why wouldn't any woman want you? It goes with the territory. Wrong.

Couple this egotism with the laddist ignoring consensual conversations, any regard for the woman’s wishes in this situation has been ignored.

As the old saying goes, “If you assume, you make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’.”

And apparently, none of this was enough to actually convict any of them. All four have walked free. 

It’s not funny, it’s not banter. It’s the last bastion of overt and accepted misogyny of our so-called “equal” society.

Like I said before, sport is not the only area where “lad culture” flourishes.

Sport doesn't have to be like this. In fact, the team bond and their visibility make them an excellent place for open conversation, debate and education. Just look at soccer's 'Give Respect, Get Respect' Campaign. Yeah, it didn't solve racism but at least it CALLED IT OUT.  

Take a look at the Times Up movement in the States, it’s only once we start an open and inclusive conversation can this be fixed. Dragging the problem kicking and screaming into the spotlight instead of writing it off as just another grey area.

The days of hushing sexual assault and harassment under the carpet embroidered “boys will be boys” are over. Let’s take what happened in Belfast as a beginning, a beginning of a brighter, healthier, more inclusive era for Ireland’s sports teams.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to talk about consent, not just women. It starts with a simple replacing of “It’s just a bit of craic” with “Lads, cut it out.” It starts with saying "I believe her". 

Just because they've walked away, doesn't mean that women are going to be silenced.  We owe it to her to speak up. We owe it to ourselves, our sisters, friends, co-workers to call time on this bullshit perception that men can get away with saying and doing whatever they want. 

We owe it to our daughters, to be able to tell them that we're the reason that they can go out and feel safe. 

We owe it to our sons, to teach them that real men respect women. 

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In the days that followed the uncovering of the Weinstein scandal, it became abundantly clear that the movie mogul was by no means alone in his abhorrent treatment of women.

In fact, the number of Hollywood heavy-hitters who soon found themselves at the centre of similar exposés was utterly staggering, with stars like Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman issuing statements in response to historic claims.

Indeed, the speed with which the accusations began flowing led the public to question just how many more men were complicit and how soon it would be before their conduct was discovered.

Morgan Spurlock, the star of the critically-acclaimed documentary Super Size Me, didn't asked himself those questions, but instead wondered how soon it would be before his own misconduct was exposed.

In a lengthy open letter which he posted to Twitter last night, the documentary-maker admitted to a number of events which highlight his contribution to a sexist and misogynistic culture.

"As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder “who will be next?” I wonder, “when will they come for me?”" he began.

"You see, I’ve come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem."

"Over my life, there have been many instances that parallel what we see everyday in the news," he continued. "When I was in college, a girl who I hooked up with on a one night stand accused me of rape. Not outright. There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class and called me by name. A female friend who was in the class told be about it afterwards."

"I was floored," he wrote as he outlined the event as he remembered it.

"In my mind, we’d been drinking all night and went back to my room. We began fooling around, she pushed me off, then we laid in the bed and talked and laughed some more, and then began fooling around again," Morgan wrote. "We took off our clothes. She said she didn’t want to have sex, so we laid together, and talked, and kissed, and laughed, and then we started having sex."

Morgan explains that the woman in question suddenly referenced a child's toy and began crying, writing: "I didn’t know what to do. We stopped having sex and I rolled beside her."

"I tried to comfort her. To make her feel better. I thought I was doing ok, I believed she was feeling better. She believed she was raped."

Morgan goes on to outline a series of incidents which took place in the workplace eight years ago, writing: "I would call my female assistant “hot pants” or “sex pants” when I was yelling to her from the other side of the office. Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence."

"So, when she decided to quit, she came to me and said if I didn’t pay her a settlement, she would tell everyone. Being who I was, it was the last thing I wanted, so of course, I paid. I paid for peace of mind. I paid for her silence and cooperation. Most of all, I paid so I could remain who I was."

The 47-year-old continues the open letter by admitting he has been unfaithful in every relationship he has been in, and insists that he feels deep regret over the way in which he treated the women he proclaimed to love.

"I hurt them. And I hate it. But it didn’t make me stop," he admitted. "The worst part is, I’m someone who consistently hurts those closest to me. From my wife, to my friends, to my family, to my partners & co-workers. I have helped create a world of disrespect through my own actions."

The filmaker questions his actions, asking: "What caused me to act this way? Is it all ego? Or was it the sexual abuse I suffered as a boy and as a young man in my teens?"

"Is it because my father left my mother when I was child? Or that she believed he never respected her, so that disrespect carried over into their son?"

Spurlock acknowledges that these potential root causes don't detract from the pain he caused, writing: "None of these things matter when you chip away at someone and consistently make them feel like less of a person. I am part of the problem. We all are."

Attempting to offer a solution by way of redemption, Spurlock finishes the letter by vowing to change his approach, writing: "The only individual I have control over is me. "

"So starting today, I’m going to be more honest with you and myself. I’m going to lay it all out in the open. Maybe that will be a start. Who knows. But I do know I've talked enough in my life … I'm finally ready to listen."

Twitter has had a mixed reaction to Spurlock's letter, with some commending him for his 'bravery' and others insisting that Spurlock's letter is nothing more than a feeble attempt at damage control.

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In March of this year, Danny Masterson, who was perhaps best known for his role in That 70s Show, was accused of rape.

Despite these allegations. which date back to the early 2000s, Masterson was allowed to keep his role on Netflix's The Ranch.

However, due to a recent petition campaigning for Masterson's dismissal, bosses at The Ranch have dismissed the actor.

The petition, which amassed almost 40,000 signatures, drew attention to Netflix's decision to suspend Kevin Spacey from House of Cards, but retain Masterson on The Ranch.

Releasing a statement earlier today, a spokesperson for Netflix said: "As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of ‘The Ranch."

"Yesterday was his last day on the show, and production will resume in early 2018 without him.”

Masterson responded to the dismissal in a lengthy statement, beginning"I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of The Ranch."

"From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one."

"In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused," he continued.

"I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I’ve worked so closely with over the past three seasons. I wish them nothing but success. I am also so thankful to the fans that have supported me and continue to do so."

Danny is married to actress and model Bijou Phillips.

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Former Backstreet Boys member, Nick Carter, has been accused of sexual assault and rape by a woman named Melissa Schuman.

In a lengthy blog post, Melissa explained that Nick, who she didn't name until the end of her post, forced himself upon her in his Santa Monica apartment in 2002.

Melissa, who was 18 at the time of the alleged assault and a member of a girl band known as DREAM, began her post by explaining that she has kept the incident to herself for 15 years, and ultimately suffered in silence as a result.

She explained that she attempted to come forward, but was met by obstacles along the way.

"I confided in my then manager, Nils Larsen, that I wanted to come forward," Melissa wrote. "He heard me out and said he would do some investigation and would try to find me a good attorney as I intended to press charges."

"He later informed me that my abuser, who’s name I will disclose later in this article, had the most powerful litigator in the country."

Opening up about the assault, Melissa wrote: "The first time I met my abuser wasn’t the first time the abuse occurred. The first time we spoke was briefly over the phone while I was filming “This Is Me Remix” music video with my group DREAM and then boss, P. Diddy."

"My abuser was and still is, in a very well known boyband. My label informed me that this person’s rep had reached out to them and he shown romantic interest in me and would like to set up a chat over the phone."

After a brief but polite phone call, Melissa didn't hear from her abuser for a few years until he got back in touch and invited her over to his apartment.

"That evening my friend and I arrived to a barely furnished apartment. No dining room furniture, No living room furniture. Just a TV and a game console which both the guys were playing on," Melissa recalled.

"My abuser, 22, provided liquor for the get together and asked us what we would like to drink. We all took a shot and proceeded to the living room to play some video games. This wasn’t a crazy house party, just a casual hangout. We were laughing, talking, nothing out of the norm."

Melissa recalls kissing his abuser in private, writing: "He was aware that I was a virgin and that I held to religious conservative Christian values. I was vocal about this. Everyone knew about this, including those who repped me."

At this point in the post, Melissa warns readers that the detail becomes quite graphic, writing: "He then picked me up, put me on the bathroom counter and started to unbutton my pants. I told him I didn’t want to go any further. He didn’t listen. He didn’t care."

"I told him thats not why I didn’t want to do it. He took off my pants anyway and then proceeded to perform oral sex on me. I told him to stop, but he didn’t. So I turned off the bathroom light so I wouldn’t see anything."

"He kept turning the light back on because he told me he wanted to look at me. I remember thinking at that point that maybe after this he will just stop, but he didn’t."

After Melissa refused to perform oral sex on her abuser, she recalls him growing impatient and saying:"I did it for you and it’s only right you do it for me.”

"I felt scared and trapped. He was visually and clearly growing very angry and impatient with me. I couldn’t leave. It was evident to me, that i couldn’t leave. He was stronger and much bigger than me, and there was no way I would be able to open that door or have anyone help me. My friend couldn’t help me, I didn’t even know where she was."

Following the assault in the bathroom, Melissa recalls being taken to the bedroom, writing: "He threw me on the bed and climbed on top of me. Again, I told him that I was a virgin and I didn’t want to have sex. I told him that I was saving myself for my future husband. I said it over and over again. He whispered in my ear as to entice me “I could be your husband.”

"He was relentless, refusing to take my no’s for an answer. He was heavy, too heavy to get out from under him. Then I felt it, he put something inside of me. I asked him what it was and he whispered in my ear once more. “it’s all me baby.”"

"It was done. The one thing I had held as a virtue had been ruined. I went limp, turned my head to my left and decided I would just go to sleep now. I wanted to believe it was some sort of nightmare I was dreaming up." Melissa wrote.

After withdrawing from her friends in the wake of the assault and dodging her abuser's calls, Melissa attempted to put the incident behind her, but was thrown back into a situation with her abuser.

"I later signed with his manager, Kenneth Crear. Kenneth Crear was a very powerful manager who I thought could help me make my mark as a recording artist," Melissa recalled.

"Kenneth set up a showcase for me for a major label. We recorded a few songs, one of them was a duet with my abuser. We never recorded together. He had pre-recorded his part and I went in and recorded mine."

"Again, what was I supposed to do? I could’t tell my manager that his best friend had raped me so I won’t record this song."

"The day of the showcase, he arrived. I waited quietly and anxiously backstage bracing myself for the confrontation. We stood next to each other in awkward silence. He was irritated with my lack of warm welcome and appreciation for the favor he was doing for me," Melissa wrote.

At this point in the blog post, Melissa revealed her abuser by recalling the moment they were introduced on stage together: "Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Melissa Schuman and from the BackStreet Boys, Nick Carter."

Following the showcase, Melissa learned that she wasn't going to be signed, with her manager telling her: "He isn’t interested in signing you. He told me your vocals were weak in the duet and that he was interested in the song only. Nick will be moving forward with the song elsewhere.”

Melissa recalls the effect both this and the assault has on her writing: "I was broken. I was tired. I was traumatized."

"I told my therapist. I told my family. I told my friends. I have a plethora of people who can attest that I eventually became open vocal about my experience, i’ve just never had the platform to come out publicly."

"When the news broke about the gross accusations of Harvey Weinstein, many of my friends and family asked me if I wanted to come forward with my story. I said no."

Fearful of victim-shaming, Melissa didn't want to come forward until she decided she had an obligation to do so.

"I feel I have an obligation now to come forward with the hope and intention to inspire and encourage other victims to tell their story. We are stronger in numbers.. I know it’s scary. I’m scared."

"I believe you. I stand with you and together I hope we can bring light to things that have been lost in the darkness for so long."

Nick, who is now 37, is married to Lauren Kitt and is a father of one.

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The French government looks set to reassess its laws around sexual consent following two cases where men were acquitted of raping 11-year-old girls.

As it stands, the age of consent in France is 15, however prosecutors must still prove that the sexual act was non-consensual in order to charge the offender with rape.

According to reports, the country's Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet, confirmed that officials were considering the introduction of a fixed age, below which “consent is presumed not to exist.”

“The question of the age below which the minor's consent is presumed not to exist is crucial, because there are obviously extremely shocking and unacceptable situations,” she said.

There are currently no laws in place that classify sex with someone below a certain age as rape, meaning that if there is no violence involved, many offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor.

According to The Irish Independent, Marlene Schiappa, a junior minister for gender equality, said that the cut-off could be between the ages of 13 and 15.

“Below a certain age, it is considered that there can be no debate on the sexual consent of a child, and that any child below a certain age would automatically be considered to be raped or sexually assaulted.”

The news come after two recent court cases highlighted the need for stricter laws in relation to the age of consent.

Two men, 29 and 30, who abused two 11-year-old girls in separate incidents, were both acquitted after it was deemed that their acts did not constitute rape under French law.

According to current legislation, a person can only be charged with rape of a minor if the sexual act is committed “by violence, coercion, threat or surprise.”

In Ireland the age of sexual consent is 17, with additional protection in place to protect children under 15.

Other European countries like Germany and Portugal have a lower age of consent at 14.

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Katie Ascough, the former president of the UCD Student Union, elaborated on her pro-life stance while speaking with Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio 1 this weekend.

Katie, who was impeached after making the decision to remove information pertaining to abortion from the university's Fresher handbook, told the host that her pro-life stance also applies to cases of rape.

The 20-year-old, whose pro-life opinion intensified after her mother suffered a miscarriage in recent years, explained that while she considers rape 'an abhorrent crime', she feels a termination is an unwise response.

"Rape is one of the most abhorrent crimes towards women and I completely condemn it. In fact I think we need to look at having more serious sentences for rapists in Ireland," she said.

“But at the same time, I do not think that abortion is the answer to this," Katie added.

Arguing that women who terminate a pregnancy following rape essentially punish the foetus as opposed to the father, Katie suggested that increased support would reduce the number of women who opt to abort in these cases.

"The child should not have to bear the brunt of their father’s crime. The child should not be essentially sentenced to death for what their father has done."

"I think we need to support them in as many ways as we can but at the same time, when it comes to bodily autonomy, there are two people involved in a pregnancy," Katie said. 

"A child’s heart starts beating at 21 days. And I don’t think we can ignore that."

Katie was voted out of office by 69 per cent of voters last month.

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Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of rape and sexual assault. 

Actress Kristina Cohen has accused Gossip Girl actor Ed Westwick of rape. 

Kristina wrote an extensive post about her alleged experience on Facebook last night. 

Kristina detailed that the assault allegedly happened while she was dating a producer who was friends with Westwick, and claims that the rape occurred at the actor's home three years ago.

'It was this producer who brought me up to Ed’s house where I met Ed for the first time. I wanted to leave when Ed suggested “we should all f*ck”. But the producer didn’t want to make Ed feel awkward by leaving,' she wrote in the post. 

'Ed suggested I nap in the guest bedroom. The producer said we would stay for just another 20 more minutes to smooth everything over, and then we could leave.'

'I went and laid down in the guest room where I eventually fell asleep, I was woken up abruptly by Ed on top of me, his fingers entering my body.'

 

A post shared by Ed Westwick (@edwestwick) on

'I told him to stop, but he was strong. I fought him off as hard as I could but he grabbed my face in his hands, shaking me, telling me he wanted to f*ck me,' she continued. 

'I was paralysed, terrified. I couldn’t speak, I could no longer move.

'He held me down and raped me,' she claimed. 

Kristina also detailed the guilt she felt after the incident, and how she was told by her boyfriend at the time that she didn't want to be known as 'that girl.' 

'The producer put the blame on me, telling me I was an active participant,' she claimed. 

'Telling me that I can’t say anything because Ed will have people come after me, destroy me, and that I could forget about an acting career.'

'Social conditioning that everything is always the woman’s fault?'

Image: Facebook / Kristina Cohen

'That a man’s inability to keep himself off of our bodies is somehow because of us, not him?' 

Kristina felt that she had to speak up and describe what happened to her after the recent outpouring of sexual assault claims in Hollywood. 

'Men like Ed using fame and power to rape and intimidate but then continue through the world collecting accolades.'

'I hope that my stories and the stories of others help to reset and realign the toxic environments and power imbalances that have created these monsters,' she finished her online testimonial. 

Westwick has not yet commented on the alleged assault.

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An Egyptian lawyer has come under fire after he suggested that women who wear revealing clothing, such as ripped jeans, deserve to be raped.

Nabih al-Wahsh, a prominent conservative, said it is a “patriotic duty” to sexually harass a girl who shows parts of her body in public.

According to Al Arabiya, he said: “Are you happy when you see a girl walking down the street with half of her behind showing?”

“I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.”

Adding: “Girls must respect themselves so others respect them.”

The shocking comments were made during a live television debate in which panel members were discussing a draft law fighting prostitution and debauchery.

Understandably, Mr al-Wahsh's statement has sparked outrage across the globe and Egypt’s National Council for Women have announced plans to file a complaint against the TV channel.

“All the members of the council denounce and decry this statement that explicitly promotes rape and sexual harassment,” it said in a statement.

According to reports, Al-Wahsh previously described Egypt’s National Centre for Women as a "suspicious den" responsible for the "spread of divorces" and the "destruction of Egypt."

The comments come after an international poll named Cairo as the most dangerous megacity for women to live in. 

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A film, which was released by Leicestershire police and co-created with the help of real-life rape victims, has garnered considerable praise online this morning.

The footage seeks to advise rape victims of the importance of preserving as much evidence as possible against your attacker, no matter how badly you feel it may reflect on you.

"Have you been a victim of rape? Please come forward as quickly as possible and help us retain evidence. Help us, to help you," reads the caption.

"Ourselves and partners will be extremely sensitive and provide you with support throughout your "journey", whatever that may look like. Rape is rape."

The footage, which has been released on social media, illustrates how quickly the chances of getting a conviction decrease if the victims makes the decision to destroy evidence due to a desire to preserve her own self-worth or protect herself against judgement.

From taking a bath to deleting text messages, every decision to destroy evidence ultimately contributes to the possibility your rapist will walk free.

Warning: The scenes contained in this short film may prove distressing to some users.

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Teespring, an online fashion company which advertises user-generated designs, have this afternoon decided to remove three items which promote sexual assault.

A mug, aT-shirt and a hoodie, which are emblazoned with the slogan 'Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat' were retailing on the website for €14, €19 and €34, respectively.

According to their website, Teespring provides a platform for the public to turn their ideas into 'high-quality products.' And by shopping with Teespring you will be 'supporting independent creators and the causes they care about'.

Yes, you read those last five words correctly.

Following backlash,Teespring released a statement on the matter, saying: "This morning it came to our attention that a user created a number of designs on Teespring that included references to rape."

"As soon as this was discovered it was removed from the site.Teespring does not support or allow the promotion of any violent or unlawful activity on the platform."

As of this afternoon, the items were no longer available to purchase.

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Ulster and Irish rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are among four men to have been charged by the PSNI in relation to an alleged rape. 

Four men questioned about the incident, which is alleged to have taken place in Belfast in June of last year, are to be prosecuted, according to the Public Prosecution Service.

Both men have denied the charges and a solicitor acting on Jackson's behalf said he was “very disappointed” with the verdict.

Jackson, 25, and Olding, 24, face a rape charge while a third man faces a sexual offence charge and a fourth is to be charged with intent to pervert the course of justice.

"We are very disappointed at the decision of the PPS to prosecute given the particular circumstances and facts known in this case.

"Our client rejects completely the allegations made against him and we are confident he will be exonerated in due course."

A joint statement from Ulster Rugby and the IRFU read:

"The IRFU and Ulster Rugby are aware that Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been charged by the PSNI in relation to serious allegations made against them.

"The players have cooperated fully and strenuously deny the charges."

"The IRFU and Ulster Rugby take these allegations extremely seriously."

"To allow the players time to address this matter fully Ulster Rugby and the IRFU have agreed that they be relieved of their duties and obligations until the conclusion of this process.  Appropriate support structures will be put in place with them during this time."

"As this is a matter for the Public Prosecution Service it would be inappropriate to comment further."

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A 24-year-old man was due to appear before the Dublin District Court this morning in connection with the alleged rape and false imprisonment of an 18-year-old Spanish student last weekend.

The individual, who was arrested on Monday afternoon, was held for questioning at the Irishtown Garda Station until Tuesday afternoon.

The alleged victim claimed she met the man in the city centre over the weekend and agreed to travel to Sandymount with him in order to take photographs.

She then claims he forced her into a tent in a remote area of Rinsend where he repeatedly raped her over the course of two days before she managed to escape and raise the alarm.

It is understood that the 24-year-old suspect was on bail for another offence at the time of the alleged attack last weekend.

The 18-year-old woman was taken to hospital and received a medical examination. Her family have travelled from Spain to be with her at this time.
 

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