Maíria Cahill

::Trigger Warning – today’s blog deals with rape and abuse:::

There is no doubt that Maíria Cahill grew up a staunch supporter of Republicanism. She came from a Republican family and she sacrificed more than any girl should for the Cause. Whether or not you are skeptical of her reasons for coming forward now about the abuse she suffered, there really is no doubt that she feels like a victim.

She is being victimized now as well by the media, by her detractors, and by those who would politicize her story of abuse – who would take it and wield it as a club against Republicanism. She already endured the rape(s) and currently has to relive and share it in the hopes that people will believe her and that no one goes through what she did ever again. She has been vilified by some and used by others. She is being called everything from a liar to a whore to a British spy on a daily basis. There have been credible threats against her life and she has had to move at least four times since the story broke. Is this how a society should treat a woman who has been raped and violated? Of course not. Unfortunately, it happens all too often and judging, bullying, and slut shaming is a worldwide problem that doesn’t seem to have a cure.

We must remember that Maíria Cahill’s ordeal was not that long ago. The rape(s) occurred in 1997 and when the IRA court made their decision, it was 1999. The PSNI was just being formed and Sinn Fein was in the middle of the peace process. Had she gone to the RUC, as people claim they told her to do, she may have been branded a traitor, because while they might have arrested the man in question for rape, they probably would have also interrogated him for his knowledge of (P)IRA activities. She did what her conscience and belief system told her to do by going to a makeshift IRA court. Obviously, she did not believe that an IRA court would exist only to protect their own interests – and was hurt to find that their interests were not in line with hers. After being judged and watching her rapist go free, she still remained silent for fifteen years.

I’m not even going to go into the current politics affected by her story, except to say again that her Republican credentials are solid and she did everything she thought she could. She took this experience to the Republican authorities who failed her spectacularly. She is not the only one either. Many studies on the homemade justice systems have shown jaw-dropping errors and critical failures in the protection of women in particular. Being told to return to your abusive husband is not quite as bad as being forced to confront your own rapist while your body language is “studied” to see if you’re lying, but it is all part of the same problem.  Women do not have the same status as men in Ireland, America, or anywhere else, and due to that, society as a whole continues to abandon, shame and fail them.

Her story has been questioned and argued and if the last few days are any indication, it will continue to be for quite some time. Airing it is certainly inconvenient for Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, and other high ranking officials with historical ties to the IRA, but who are we to tell her how she should behave? Just like I wouldn’t presume to tell a grieving loved one how they should act, I am certainly not going to tell a rape victim to be silent, and neither should anyone else. If her truth helps even one person, it is worth it – and if it is uncomfortable for some, it’s probably because they know they wronged her, and many like her.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually feel for Gerry Adams too. He’s had a couple really bad years when it comes to what he knows and when but it is also a sign of his growing power. People are using everything they can against him to break the forward charge of Sinn Fein. This is when the past catches up, I guess. But to insinuate that Maíria Cahill is just another scandal, that she’s a political pawn or that her story is untrue is just another injustice she has to suffer and one I am not willing to subject her to, no matter how many questions there are.

Women who have been raped or attacked should never have to endure even more victimization and the way she has been treated thus far has been hard to watch.  For her sake, I hope breaking her silence has begun to put her ghosts to rest and will eventually help more than it hurts. In the meantime, I will continue to believe that someday our world will be better, that women will truly be treated as equals in all aspects, and the urges some have to shame, hurt, or threaten them will vanish for good. Unfortunately today is not that day and I wouldn’t advise anyone to hold their breath on that one, no matter how optimistic I like to be.

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