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Rape and restorative justice: The power of The Meeting cannot be underestimated

Inspirational beyond measure.

Warning: This article makes reference to sexual assault and rape. 

NINE YEARS AFTER enduring a violent rape, Ailbhe Griffith made the decision to meet the man who attacked her as dawn broke over Dublin one morning back in 2005.

PastedImage-97527 Source: YouTube

A mere four minutes from the safety of her own home, Ailbhe was forcibly undressed, viciously assaulted and subsequently raped by an individual who alighted at her bus stop and followed her through the quiet streets of South County Dublin.

Bruised, bitten and broken, Ailbhe, then 21-years-old, was dragged from the place of the attack by her rapist before encountering upon two men who subsequently chased down the man who had assaulted Ailbhe while repeating ‘You’re not so glamorous now, are you?’

Ailbhe went on to endure invasive but vital examinations from medical professionals, lengthy exchanges with an Garda Síochána and ultimately saw her attacker prosecuted and remanded behind bars.

Nine years later, Ailbhe made the decision to meet her rapist following his release from prison after she became consumed by the idea of confronting him and asking why he chose to brutalise an innocent young woman; why he chose to brutalise her.

And so, as part of a restorative justice process, Ailbhe came face to face with this man in an effort to bring a form of closure to an incident which irreversibly changed the course of both their lives.

PastedImage-8967 Source: YouTube

Today – four years on – Ailbhe has played herself in a 95-minute film which reenacts this highly-charged meeting.

Recreated on a single-set with a script born of the transcripts from the original exchange, Aidan Gilsenan’s The Meeting features just six people; four actors, as well as Ailbhe and Dr Marie Keenan who play themselves.

The audience soon learns that Ailbhe didn’t initiate the meeting in search of an apology; an apology her attacker quickly asserted he would not be providing.

Instead, Ailbhe seeks to humanise the man who made such a determined (but ultimately fruitless) effort to dehumanise her nine years previously.

She provides him an insight into the person she was, the person she became and the person she hopes to be in the aftermath of her meeting with him. In turn, he gives her a snapshot of the life he once led, the motivation for his brutal attack and the personal consequences of the decision he made as he stepped off that bus back in 2005.

Distressing and inspirational in equal measure, The Meeting feels like a snapshot into the surreal.

Indeed, at one point in the film, the pair even share a bemused laugh; a moment so unexpected it caused me to physically shift in my seat and openly marvel at Ailbhe’s strength of character.

Courageous and dignified, she deftly regains possession of everything her attacker so desperately tried to rob from her that morning in 2005.

The Meeting is currently showing in Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema.

Source: EclipsePicturesIE/YouTube

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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