Trigger warning: rape.
How do I start this? Dear supporters of Ched Evans? Dear supporters of convicted rapist Ched Evans? Dear rape apologists?
Have you ever been punched in the face? Have you ever been punched repeatedly in the face, without mercy, despite your face being bloodied and tears and snot being smeared right across your face? Have you ever been rooted to the spot, wanting to scream “STOP PUNCHING ME IN THE EFFING FACE” at the bastard who is throwing them, and yet been too overwhelmed to even try and shield your face?
That is how I feel every time I fire up the internet and see yet another person defending Ched Evans; every time I see people – quite often people who I had otherwise had a lot of respect for – valuing a convicted rapist being able to return to football over the safety and wellbeing of his victim.
Time after time, I have heard supporters of Ched Evans, people like you, say “he has served his time”. Except he hasn’t. He hasn’t “served his time” – he is under licence. And even if he had served his time, that wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t be enough because Ched Evans has failed to recognise the enormity of what he has done. He hasn’t shown any regard for his victim whatsoever. He doesn’t understand that what he has done is so horrific.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be an unreasonable person. I believe in genuine rehabilitation for offenders; a position that has, admittedly, taken me a long time to reach. But I also know that rehabilitation is about, first and foremost, recognition of the offence you have committed, acknowledgement of the effect that offence has on the victim, on their family, their friends. The consequences of your actions.
How can Ched Evans be rehabilitated when he doesn’t consider his actions to be rape? How can it be guaranteed that Ched Evans will not be a danger to other women when he doesn’t believe that having sex without consent is not sex at all, but rape?
I know you’d say that sexual violence is never acceptable. I know you’d say that supporting Ched Evans returning to football doesn’t make sexual violence okay. Except, seeing people mock Ched Evans’ victim, vilify her, call her a liar… Seeing people praise Ched Evans for his strength, for standing up to the nasty feminists… You see, that’s one massive great kick to the face to me. It makes me feel sick.
A lot of football fans don’t consider it to be the responsibility of football to make a decision on whether or not Ched Evans is guilty. The good news is that I don’t expect you to, nor need you to, as a jury already did that for you and he was found guilty. A lot of women don’t ever bring their attackers brought to justice; most of them don’t even get as far as reporting their attackers.
But do you know what is the responsibility of football? To ensure that those who front the beautiful game, who are ambassadors for the sport, are decent role models. If you’re not already convinced of that, just a quick search on Twitter reveals tweets along the lines of “I’d Ched Evans her” or “Tight on Ched Evans i think, the bird wasnt even that fit. I deffo wouldnt of raped her, would of chose someone decent“.
On Facebook, men I shared a sixth form common room with have revealed the reality of their beliefs – that the victim was only after her fifteen minutes of fame (which worked out considerably well for her considering she has had to change her identity five times), that Ched Evans has too much respect for women to do it (ignoring the fact a huge proportion of rapes are committed by men already known to the victim – someone who the survivor has previously known, trusted, often even loved, someone who women probably thought respected them).
Do you know what makes me most sick? Ched Evans being painted as the victim. Ched Evans hasn’t been hounded into changing his identity five times by internet trolls. Ched Evans hasn’t been living his life on the run because he is too terrified to return home to his family. Ched Evans hasn’t had his life ruined by the actions of another person. No, Ched Evans has been convicted of raping a woman. He is not the victim. He is a rapist.
I know that’s probably a difficult reality for you. I know you want to protest his innocence because of course he wouldn’t do it, he’s such a nice guy, right? This is probably news to you, but it is people like you who contribute to preventing women from coming forward and seeing justice against their attackers. People like you who make women feel too ashamed to report to the police, on the basis that a small number of false accusations are made. People like you who convince women that they will not be believed, not seen as the victim, because it isn’t possible that a bloke who seems so genuine could have committed such a heinous act. But Ched Evans is a convicted rapist.
David Conn pointed out that “football has no rules of its own against employing convicted rapists as players”, which is, of course, true. But having no rule doesn’t mean that it can’t uphold a level of decency and not employ rapists as players. Doing so is a slap in the face for survivors of sexual assault; doing so puts the careers of violent, dangerous men above the safety and protection of women. Other professions would not welcome a convicted rapist back with open arms, but it’s especially important in such a public profession which has the ability to influence fans’ attitudes.
I return to my original questions. Have you ever been punched in the face? Have you ever been punched repeatedly in the face, without mercy, despite your face being bloodied and tears and snot being smeared right across your face? Have you ever been rooted to the spot, wanting to scream “STOP PUNCHING ME IN THE EFFING FACE” at the bastard who is throwing them, and yet been too overwhelmed to even try and shield your face?
Watching Ched Evans painted as the victim in this situation feels like a massive great mallet with CHED EVANS scrawled onto is smashing me in the face. And it feels like I can’t say anything because I’ve seen the reaction from fans of the “beautiful game” and it’s really, really ugly. And me tweeting a few rape apologists isn’t going to stop Ched Evans from making a return to football.
By supporting the return of Ched Evans to football, you are sending the message that sexual violence is okay; that you can commit such an atrocious crime and not even attempt to apologise, and be welcomed back to your however-many-thousand-pounds-a-week job. It doesn’t seem particularly fair to me that Ched Evans can return to the life he had before without question, whilst his victim will live with the consequence of his actions for the rest of her life; that a few goals is more important than the safety of women. That she will never be able to return to her old life.
You have the opportunity to stand with sexual violence victims, with women everywhere, backed by thousands of people, that convicted, unrepentant rapists are not welcome on our pitches – and that women are worth so, so much more than one, rapist striker.