Oldham’s pursuit of Ched Evans highlights our treatment of both victims and rapists

9 Jan 2015

 

Earlier this week, League One club Oldham Athletic pulled the plug on their projected move for convicted rapist Ched Evans; becoming the fourth club to decide better of a move for the former Sheffield United striker after a reported interest since his release from prison. Evans himself expressed sadness in a statement that the deal had fallen through and apologised for “the effect that that night in Rhyl had had on many people, especially the woman concerned.”

 

This is not the first time the Latics have made an approach for a player with a criminal conviction. In August 2007, the club signed powerful forward Lee Hughes immediately after his release from prison for causing death through dangerous driving. Upon his release, Hughes said; “I made dreadful mistakes and decisions that will live with me for the rest of my life. It also affected my immediate family, including my wife and children, and I will never forgive myself for this.”

 

In 2009, Amanda Peak received a handwritten letter from former Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick apologising for the “hurt and heartache that I have caused to you and the rest of your family” by killing her two sons in a car crash while over the drink drive limit a year earlier. Mrs Peak said that although she had felt McCormick had not shown much remorse at the time, the fact that he had apologised had helped her and her family.

 

For what Ched Evans’ supporters do not realise, is that the contract between the cases of Hughes and McCormick, and Evans’ case, is that both of the former men acknowledged their crimes and apologised. This does not automatically give them a right to redemption, but owning up to a crime and apologising for it is the first step towards a new start.

This is something that Ched Evans has never done, and this is why so many people would begrudge him a fresh beginning in professional football, having served his time. What we can really learn from this case however, and from the behaviour of both his supporters and his detractors, is how we view and treat both rapists and their victims.

 

Since Evans’ attack on her, his victim has had to move house no fewer than five times. Her father said last month that his daughter was ‘living life on the run’ and had had to spend Christmas away from her family and friends after being targeted by trolls. Meanwhile, an Oldham director received messages threatening to rape his daughter if his club signed Evans.

 

What the threats towards both Evans’ victim and Oldham reflect is how far our society has to go when it comes to thinking about the aftermath of a rape.

 

The threats to rape the Oldham director’s daughter came from the mind of someone who had convinced themselves that there is ‘good’ rape and ‘bad’ rape and that somehow, making a threat to rape the daughter of the director of a football club who were planning to sign a convicted rapist is somehow justified.

 

Evans himself complained about ‘mob rule’ and pointed to it as a factor in the breakdown of his move to Boundary Park, saying that ‘mob rule’ and ‘constant media reporting’ had ‘had the desired effect,’ but did not apply the term ‘mob rule’ to those targeting his victim on Twitter.

 

It is very clear that Ched Evans still does not believe he did anything wrong that night in 2012 and his belligerent lack of remorse, the insistence of his supporters that ‘the bloke’s served his time, let him get on with his life,’ and those who believe that threatening rape is acceptable behaviour as long as it is intended to make life difficult for a convicted rapist show not just what is wrong with how Ched Evans views his actions but how people who support him and chastise him view them.

 

In this country, the way sex education is taught is completely unsatisfactory and is to blame for the case of Ched Evans and countless others like it. Evans is not the only young man or for that matter, young woman, who has grown up ignorant about what constitutes sexual consent. You do not have to beat someone black and blue before forcing yourself upon them for it to be rape.  Someone does not have to say ‘no’ for it to be rape.

 

If someone is in not a position to be able to give consent - if they are, for example, extremely intoxicated (in the case of Evans’ victim, to the extent at which the next morning, they asked where they were), then they are not sufficiently aware of their surroundings and what is going on, to be able to consent to sexual intercourse.

 

Ched Evans is not the only person in this country who does not understand this, many people who have commented on his case on social media in recent weeks have the same difficulty understanding the concept of what exactly constitutes consent.

 

However, having displayed a lack of understanding by either ignorance or wilful moral disregard and damaged someone’s life potentially beyond repair, if Evans was serious about gaining redemption and atoning for his actions as best he could, he would have apologised unreservedly to his victim and acknowledged his crime.

 

That he has not apologised in any meaningful way and shows no remorse, is incredibly depressing in the context of a justice system which frequently lets victims down and punishes them rather than their attackers and consistently sends out an overriding message of ‘don’t put yourself in situations where you are likely to be raped’ rather than a message to attackers of ‘don’t rape’.

 

Evans’ status as a footballer is also to blame for the state of affairs where so many continue to support him and see him as above the law, something which is symptomatic of how we as a culture idolise our professional athletes and teach them that they are behave however they want without any consequences.

 

Today, Hull City manager Steve Bruce expressed his view that Evans ‘has a case for appeal’ and said that ‘it must be a frustrating and difficult time for him’, whilst QPR manager Harry Redknapp also showed his support for Evans.

 

From our football clubs, to our courts of justice, to a self-proclaimed Twitter vigilante living out of his mum’s spare room and convincing himself that he is doing the world a service, there is something so very wrong with how we react to rape convictions in this country and until all of it changes, we will be seeing a lot more cases like the Ched Evans one.

 

By Alex Shilling

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