Sunday, 11 January 2015

Ched Evans: A Few Thoughts.

Ched Evans.  Convicted of rape in 2012.

For the last few months, we seem to have been in an endless state of anticipation, waiting to see which football club might sign Ched Evans.  But this is no ordinary transfer window signing.  This is no casual spectator entertainment.  Or at least it shouldn't be.  Each and every club that so much as moots the idea of an interest in signing Evans has been met with an outcry and threats from sponsors to pull out of lucrative deals.  Each and every club that has expressed an interest in signing Evans has, therefore, pulled out of the deal well before it was finalised.  Why?  Because Ched Evans is a convicted rapist.  Footballers are, no matter who wants to argue to the contrary, role models.  Young kids watching will quickly pick a favourite player whose skills they want to emulate.  For me (yes, I'm a girl who likes football, try to look less shocked), it was Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.  The thought of youngsters looking up to Ched Evans leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.  As did his recent "apology."  Why?

Well, firstly, were I a parent, I wouldn't want my child looking up to someone who has been tried in a court of law for the despicable crime of rape and who has been found guilty.  Evans is currently putting his case up for appeal again.  To date, he has attempted this twice before and had the appeal rejected out of hand.  Four - yes, four - judges have dismissed the idea that there is any further evidence that could prove his innocence and instead have chosen to agree with the guilty verdict reached in the original trial.

It's not hard to see why.  It's difficult to imagine what further "evidence" Evans could possibly present that would overturn the original verdict.  After all, this isn't a man who denies ever meeting his victim, or who claims that they consensually went back to his place together.  This is a man who openly admits that he "stepped over" the victim when he saw her lying on the floor of a kebab shop, in a state of non-sobriety.  This is a man who was in a taxi home with his brother and a friend when a second footballer (cleared of rape) sent him a text that said simply "got a bird."  This is a man who decided that text was an invitation and turned up at the hotel he knew his friend would be taking the victim to (having actually booked the room for him, earlier, with the express intention of finding a woman to have sex with).  This is a man who openly admits to lying to the hotel receptionist, in order to get a key to the room.  This is a man who knew that his friend would be in the room with the "bird" he had picked up, quite probably naked and engaged in sexual activity, yet let himself into the room to watch and allowed his brother to attempt to film the events through the hotel window.  This is a man who then "got involved" (his words) and had sex with a victim who told the court that she was so drunk by this point that she couldn't have consented and that she had no recollection of what had been done to her when she awoke the following morning, confused and in a strange place.  And this is the man we want to reward with a high-profile job as a sportsman?  A position which would make him a role model?!

First use of my big "no" of 2015!

Supporters of Evans - and he has many - will tell you that those who don't wish to see him back playing professional football whilst on license as a convicted rapist (he was released after serving half his sentence and can be recalled to prison if he breaks the terms of his release) are an "angry mob," who don't believe in rehabilitation and who wish to see him jobless for the rest of his life.  That simply isn't true.

Firstly, rehabilitation is something that can only be achieved if a person accepts that they committed a crime and that it was wrong.  I absolutely believe in rehabilitation and I'm not sure I would want to live in a society that didn't.  But Ched Evans believes he's innocent.  He doesn't think that lying in order to get into a hotel room in which a woman who hadn't given consent for him to be there is wrong.  He insists that the girl consented to the sexual intercourse they had, despite evidence proving that she was - as she claims - heavily intoxicated and unable to give clear consent.  He doesn't see a problem with the events of that night in 2011, after which he fled via a fire escape so as not to be spotted.  Coincidentally, his friend Clayton McDonald (the second footballer mentioned) may have been cleared of rape, but his actions - picking up a drunk girl for sex and allowing a friend to barge in and "get involved," whilst others tried to film the events through the window, before leaving said girl unattended the following morning - make him equally morally reprehensible in my view.  But as I mentioned, Ched Evans doesn't seem to have a problem with any of the above.  How can a man be rehabilitated if he views himself as having done nothing wrong?

For three years, following the events of that night in 2011, Ched Evans maintained his innocence (and continues to do so).  In statements to the press at the time, his only apologies were reserved for his girlfriend (now fiance) for "cheating on her."  So, as I mentioned earlier, it leaves a rather bitter taste in my mouth that Evans has conveniently chosen now - after several clubs have pulled out of prospective signings amid public outrage - to suddenly apologise to "the woman in question" for "the effects of that night in Rhyl."  Laughably, he also claimed to "condemn" the actions of the many, many trolls who've publicly named and shamed his victim, sending her rape and death threats and causing her to have to change her name and address multiple times.  However, this is utterly hypocritical.  Evans' own cousin was one of the people ordered to pay compensation to the victim, after she named her on Twitter and referred to her as "a money-grabbing slut."  His own mother has also made derogatory remarks about the victim, as has Evan's fiance, Natasha Massey.  Perhaps most disturbingly, Natasha's father, Karl Massey has funded a website, full of "evidence" that Evans' victim is a liar and a money-grabber, even going so far as to post a CCTV video of her entering the hotel with Clayton McDonald on the night in question and suggesting that she doesn't look drunk enough for her "too drunk to consent" argument to stand up in court (except it did, because Evans was found guilty) and potentially identifying her, despite her right to anonymity.  Considering the defamatory nastiness written about the victim online, ruining her life and meaning she didn't even spend this Christmas with her family out of fear, the website even goes a step further and asks people to provide "evidence" about the girl that could clear poor old Ched's name.  It doesn't take a genius to work out that the "evidence" Karl Massey and Evans' other supporters are looking for is anything that makes the victim look bad.  Karl Massey is - for reasons I genuinely can't get my head around, because there's no way my father would be protecting a boyfriend who'd cheated on me and been found guilty of rape - even offering to pay for a football club to take on his future son-in-law.  He promised Oldham Athletic that he would make up any financial shortfall they suffered, should their sponsors pull out of advertising deals as a result of Ched Evans signing for the club.  He even offered to pay Evans' wages.  So whilst Ched himself puts out a supposed heartfelt apology (three years too late), it's somwhat ludicrous to claim that he's distancing himself from those seeking to discredit and attack his victim, when his own family and future in-laws are amongst those doing the discrediting.  If he was really concerned for her well-being, he'd have told Massey to take down the website.  I just checked and it's still there, still requesting "evidence" against the victim's character and making her out to be the "money-grabbing slut" Evans' cousin was so quick to bad-mouth online.  You only have to search for Ched's name on Twitter and you soon come across men referring to his victim as a "drunken slag" and a "lying slut."  Evans may want to distance himself from these trolls, but the very website his father-in-law is bank-rolling is making pretty much the exact same claims, only with fancier wording.  That, combined with the fact that Evans has only chosen to apologise to his victim now, when he's probably getting fed up of not being able to waltz back into his footballing career, rather than at the time of his arrest, or even his release from prison, makes the whole thing look like a carefully scripted PR stunt, rather than anything remotely genuine.  And that means that rehabilitation is a long way off.

I am apparently a member of an "Angry Mob."  I read the papers every day...

The second charge levelled at those of us who believe that Evans was rightly found guilty of rape is that we don't want him to ever work again.  That's simply not true.  As I said before, I believe in rehabilitation.  If Evans could admit to what he did - and it doesn't help that he has his father-in-law throwing so much cash at his "CHED IS INNOCENT" campaign - then he could begin rehabilitation.  If he was willing to speak to professionals who work with rape victims, in order to really rehabilitate himself and learn why what he did was so vile, I would think that was an honourable thing to do.  If he wanted to use his celebrity to speak out against rape, perhaps even to do some voluntary work at an associated charity (although I admit I don't know what the likelihood of that even being allowed is, given that he's a convicted rapist), then from that point I would consider whether he could begin working towards a return to football.  Perhaps in those circumstances, others - if they believed his admission and his actions were genuine - might feel similar.

However, Evans is, despite his more than likely solicitor-scripted apology, unrepentant.  As I've already said, that makes rehabilitation improbable, if not downright impossible.  Evans himself has referred to being a professional footballer as a "rare and extraordinary privilege."  Indeed it is.  Like I mentioned earlier, it's a position in which you become a role model.  A hero even, if you're a scorer of many goals, as Evans was before all of this.  So do I think a man who sees nothing wrong in his actions that night in 2011 should be afforded the "rare and extraordinary privilege" of returning to a position in which youngsters may look up to him?  No.  But nor do I think he should never work again.  We live in a society in which rehabilitation is available and Evans should make a return to some form of employment, not only for his own benefit, but to show he's contributing to society.  But he should not simply be handed a job that makes him an idol.  Especially not when he's insistent that he did nothing wrong.

Someone suggested earlier that I have double standards - I think Evans should be rehabilitated into society eventually and given a job, just not as a footballer.  Well, I dispute that as a double standard.  It's simply a case of not wanting to reward a convicted, as yet unrepentant rapist with a "rare and extraordinary privilege."  Nobody is stopping Evans from getting a job elsewhere, away from the celebrity limelight.  If that seems hypocritical of me, let's remember:  Evans is on the sex offenders register as a result of his being found guilty.  Football is a world that attracts fans of all ages, including impressionable young women.  Would you really want a convicted rapist in that world, with all that world entails?!  There's a reason that those who work in teaching can never go back to the profession if found guilty of any form of sexual assault.  They can go and attempt to find employment, but not in the career path they had been on beforehand.  Similarly, Evans could find gainful employment somewhere.  Just not in a job where he'd be feted and seen as a role model to impressionable fans.

Those who believe that Evans is guilty of rape may be loud in their views (although if there's even a grain of truth that Oldham Athletic received rape threats from his detractors then I condemn them as thoroughly as I condemn Evans himself), but I don't believe that we're an angry "mob," as Evans suggested in his "apology."  I believe that we're people disappointed that the events of that night in Rhyl haven't been seen as being as morally repugnant as they were.  I believe that we're people who don't wish to see an unrepentant man rewarded with a speedy return to his career, whilst his victim lives in hiding, under constant attack from trolls and abusers.  I believe that we're people who know what rape culture is and how this case - and the way some of Evans' supporters have reacted to it (some have taken to Twitter to exclaim "I'd proper Ched Evans that bird," as though using his name as a euphemism for sex, possibly without consent, is somehow acceptable) emphasises the problem we have with it.  And as for Ched's victim?

I believe her.

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