Content Warning: This article contains content on sexual violence
The Six Nations championship is well underway, along with the annual dispute about Paddy Jackson’s place in Irish rugby after he stood trial for rape in 2018.
The ‘Belfast rape trial’ involved an unidentified woman, who claimed Jackson and four others raped her during a night out in Belfast.
All the defendants were found not guilty. However, Jackson and his teammate Stuart Olding were dropped from the Ulster rugby team and the Irish national team following the verdict.
One of the key pieces of evidence during the trial were text messages exchanged between the accused men following the alleged rape, which showed Jackson using sexist language.
Four years later, there is still intense debate on whether Jackson belongs on the pitch.
One leading rugby pundit for The Times recently said that rather than being exiled from the sport, Jackson’s story could act as a lesson to men.
The main argument is that a not guilty verdict should mean Jackson’s return as Ireland’s fly-half.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that a 19-year-old woman left Jackson’s house that night vaginally bleeding, upset and believing that she had been raped by two Ulster Rugby stars.
It does not change the WhatsApp messages sent the next morning between the defendants, which asked if “Any sluts [got] f****d?”.
And it does not change the fact that Jackson texted back “There was a lot of spit roast last night.”
We will never know what really happened that night for sure, but we do know that these men were comfortable using misogynistic language when they thought no one else would hear.
Allowing Jackson into the Six Nations Irish squad would not teach men how to treat women with respect but rather show them how to abuse women and get away with it.
The microaggressions toward women can seem like harmless jabs but left unchecked they can evolve into more serious crimes.
Stories about femicide are becoming more frequent these days. Women like Sarah Everard, Sabina Ness, and Ashling Murphy have all made headlines because of their tragic murders.
In fact, the same week that Ashling Murphy was murdered while enjoying an afternoon jog, The Times found it appropriate to release their defence of Paddy Jackson.
A spokesperson for The Forth Valley Rape Crisis Centre told Brig that without a strong reaction against derogatory language, further actions can be justified.
“When we choose to say silent…The aggressor knows they can get away with bad behaviour toward women and can see your silence as validation of their behaviour, which could escalate.”
The moments when men are learning from their mistakes are also the moments when women are learning that men can treat women badly and get away with it.
Letting Jackson represent his country would only show that Ireland is willing to uphold sexism and protect the perpetrators.
We need to start taking sexist language seriously before more women die as a lesson for men.
Those affected by sexual violence can contact the Forth Valley Rape Crisis Centre on 01786 439 244
Featured Image Credit: Ramsey Cardy via The Times