Close to 300 people attended the recent Galway #IBelieveHer event in front of the Galway Courthouse, in response to, and in solidarity with, the woman at the centre of the Belfast trial.
The event, entitled I Believe Her - Galway Rally on Justice System failing survivors, organised in part by the Galway Feminist Collective, was part of a series of events across Ireland. Attendees brought yellow flowers as a sign of solidarity. During the Kerry Babies trial women delivered yellow flowers to Joanne Hayes as a sign of solidarity. This also happened during the Belfast trial.
Between 30 and 40 attendees spoke, some spoke of their own experiences of abuse and how they had felt in response to the Belfast trial, while others spoke about rape culture at large in Irish society, and the importance of supporting survivors. A broad range of ages attended the event. There were also a number of secondary school students, four of whom spoke about a project they are working on in their school in Taylor's Hill about consent and communication.
"Recently the country remembered its shame about the treatment of Joanna Hayes, 30 years on from the Kerry Babies scandal," said Jacinta Fay, a member of the Galway Feminist Collective. "We were appalled by her treatment at the hands of the gardaí and at the line of questioning during the trial where she was questioned about her sexual history and her menstruation. The court proceedings during the Belfast trial and other rape trials show very little has changed. Complainants are questioned on how much they have had to drink, what they were wearing, and whether they were in fact not menstruating as opposed to bleeding as a result of rape. Survivors speak of the re-traumatising impact of going to court as if they are on trial and have to prove their innocence."
The Galway Feminist Collective is working to set up an informal support group for survivors. It will also hold a discussion group on April 9 at 7pm in Youth Work Ireland on community accountability. On April 10 the Galway Feminist Collective, Galway Pro Choice, and the NUIG Students Union will hold a fundraiser in NUIG for the Galway Rape Crisis Centre.