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We’ve had enough – Ched Evans’ petition means standing against rape

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ONE OF PANDEIA’S  senior editors and co-founders Sean Gibson published
this piece yesterday commenting on the petition against convicted rapist Ched Evans’ return to football. His concerns are not entirely convincing.

Ched Evans was a Sheffield United footballer until one day he was found guilty of raping a girl. He was sentences to five years and was recently released from jail after serving half his sentence.

He is back with his girlfriend, Natasha Massey, daughter of a millionaire businessman, and he has expressed his wish to return to football, his apologies to his girlfriend, but no apology whatsoever to his victim.

Ched Evans has always proclaimed himself innocent. The case is quite complex, here you can find a detailed description of the claims and of how the jury reached its verdict, for those who want more context. The jury’s decision was based on the idea that the 19 year old with whom Evans had intercourse was too intoxicated to be able to fully express consent – and the absence of consent implies rape. Evans’ refusal to admit guilt, or even a simple sign of remorse, is a sign of him not having recognised or understood the nature of his crime.

This is ultimately what worries those people, more than 150 thousands of them, who signed the petition against Evans’ return to Sheffield United. It is not a case of mob-rule, or a matter of a parents outsourcing their responsibilities, but a community’s expression of concern over the reinstatement of an unrepentant rapist to a position of prestige within their community.

What infuriates people is not so much that footballers, or athletes in general, are “nouveau-riche wankers” but that these “nouveau-rich wankers” get away with things unlike a normal citizen. It’s the idea that anyone with enough money and fans can rape a 19 year old, serve only half of his sentence, and then go back to his privileged life as if nothing happened.

Rape, like sexual violence and abuse, is a vicious crime that the victim can never fully put behind. The trauma of the abuse suffered is a scar that may only eventually heal with time and therapy, at a great emotional cost. The 19 year old of the case in question has to live the rest of her life with the consequences of what happened.

The identity of the young woman was supposed to remain secret due to laws protecting the identity of rape claimants, but Evans’ fans revealed her identity on Twitter following the jury’s unanimous verdict. She was given a new identity, but her cover had been blown up another two times. Adopting a new identity means having to start a completely new life, in a new location, with a new job, without ever been able to talk about what is happening to anyone but your close family.

She is paying a high price for what happened. Evans might have been in jail for two years and a half, but she’ll live like a fugitive for the rest of her life. What kind of message does this send to other people who may get harassed, abused or raped by famous, powerful people? Sure, you can go ahead and press charges, but be aware that your life is going to be turned upside down and you may have to end up living under a false identity to protect yourself by angry Twitter mobs.

The alternative, to go on with your life and try putting this behind you, seems a lot more attractive. Only the idea of doing justice and potentially preventing the further perpetration of a crime can motivate a victim in going forward and pressing charges.

There is just so much that the justice system can do to right the wrongs the victims suffer. There is a lot that we, as a society, as a community, can do to help and support those who are undertaking the difficult path to justice. One of them is to stand up together against those who are in a position privileged enough to ignore the consequences of their actions. That we are finally taking the rape victims’ side is something to commend instead of condemn.

 

Written by: Sofia Lotto Persio

Photo: screenshot of the petition from change.org

3 thoughts on “We’ve had enough – Ched Evans’ petition means standing against rape

  1. “The jury’s decision was based on the idea that the 19 year old with whom Evans had intercourse was too intoxicated to be able to fully express consent”

    Really? Are you sure about that? If the jury really thought she was too drunk to fully express consent, they would have convicted Evans’ co-accused as well. But they didn’t, they found him not guilty, so they obviously thought she was in a fit state to fully express consent with him. Nothing changed between the two sexual encounters so it’s not that she was any more drunk when Evans had sex with her. The jury seem confused about whether she was capable of consent or not. I suspect they found him guilty mostly because they didn’t like his attitude as a rich, arrogant footballer. Which is fair enough – I don’t like his attitude either. He sounds like a total wanker. But is he a rapist? I’m not so sure.

    The woman involved says she remembers nothing of that night. I believe her. But that doesn’t mean she was raped. I have had many nights where I’ve been so drunk I have no memory of what happened but from friends’ accounts I was still functioning – drunk, but still walking, talking and laughing with everyone else. Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I didn’t say and do things.

    My ex boyfriend once bought 5 bottles of champagne for everyone at his mate’s birthday party, costing him more than £200. He was completely plastered and has no memory of doing it, but he did. Just because he doesn’t remember doesn’t mean he wasn’t capable of making that decision at the time. Do you think he can go back to the bar and demand his cash back because he was “too intoxicated to be able to fully express consent” to spending so much money? They’d laugh in his face, and quite right too. Alcohol can stop you remembering even if you’re still functioning at the time.

    Regardless whether Evans is guilty or innocent, the online abuse directed at the woman involved is despicable – but this petition doesn’t do a damn thing to speak out against that. Seems an ill-thought-through endeavour all round.

    1. Hi Caroline, thanks for commenting. I think arguing that there are consequences of being drunk (such as buying Champagne) is completely missing the point. The nature of rape usually involves really highly subjective circumstances – even removing the idea that this girl was drunk, you’ve got a teenager alone with men who’re powerful and – in your words – an arrogant wanker – outnumber her. Peer pressure, coercion, power imbalances… we don’t need to understand very much of the circumstances to see that this was not a very nice environment. Add in the fact that she’s drunk and you’ve got a seriously vulnerable young woman in the hands of two men at a complete power advantage, which Evans abused.

      Faced with these circumstances, and a lot of other evidence, I can see why the courts came to the conclusion that they did. I think it was incredibly brave of her to speak out, and that we shouldn’t disregard her just because she was had been drinking. If anything, this only reinforces the vulnerable position this teenage girl was in.

      1. Hi Rachel, thanks for your reply. I agree with some of what you say but I wasn’t suggesting we disregard the woman involved because she’d been drinking. A lot of the argument about this case has, very unhelpfully, conflated the situation with the common victim-blaming of women who are forcibly raped while drunk. In those cases, I agree the woman’s drinking is irrelevant and if anything only makes the crime worse. This case is different – here, the ONLY reason the sexual encounter was deemed to be rape is BECAUSE she was drunk. She consented but her consent was considered invalid due to her level of intoxication (even though, inexplicably, the jury decided she was fine to consent a few minutes earlier with the other defendant who they acquitted).

        Was there a power imbalance? Probably. But we don’t criminalise power imbalanced relationships between adults – anyone over 18 can legally choose to have sex with someone more powerful than themselves. Also, calling her a “teenager” and them “men”, while technically correct, is really overegging it. She was 19 and they were 22/23 I believe, all young adults, so age isn’t the issue here. And yes, they outnumbered her but, again, that’s not a crime – threesomes aren’t illegal as far as I’m aware. From a legal standpoint, none of the rest of the situation was relevant because if she’d been sober none of it would constitute a crime.

        My point was that alcohol can affect your memory completely separately from your ability to function properly, so you can end up with no memory of an event even if you were a fully functional and enthusiastic participant at the time. Yet here the assumption seems to be that because she can’t remember what happened, she can’t have given full consent. I disagree. Without her memory of events, no one can ever know whether she wanted to have sex with Evans or not – but in the absence of any evidence that she didn’t consent, there is supposed to be presumption of innocence. (And, as a sidebar, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if the drunken person were a man, he’d be assumed to be in control of his decisions, however drunk he was.)

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