The Ched Evans Issue

I was born on Wednesday in April 1989, I was supposed to go home on Saturday but Dad was at an FA cup game. Almost eight years earlier my parents got married in the Summer because my Nana couldn’t possibly risk missing a home game. I had no chance, I was born into football. I love it. However, as a woman, I do have issues with the way some players treat women.

I’ve watched Norwich my whole life and I always have a favourite player. When we signed Ched Evans on loan in 2007 I was ecstatic, not just because he was a brilliant but also because he was freaking cute! Living in Australia, I couldn’t go to the games so I would bug my Nana to get things signed for me. I kept his posters and cards on my wall.

As I grew up, the posters came down, Evans went back to Manchester City and then to Sheffield United, but the posters remained in a box beneath my bed, still treasured possessions.

When he was charged with rape in 2011, I avoided reading about it. When he was convicted in 2012 my world crumbled. I made a public show of ripping up my posters and throwing them on the ground (yeh I know I was 23 at the time and acting like a teenager). I was disgusted. My Nana had died in 2009 and during one of her last seasons of watching football I had sent her chasing after a rapist. He would have known her. I felt physically ill, but more than that, I felt betrayed.

I felt betrayed by the sport that was a significant part of my identity and betrayed by the individual who I had looked up to, can you blame me for ripping up things?

In case you are not aware of the story here’s what happened:
Evans and fellow-footballer Clayton McDonald were charged with the rape of a 19 year old woman who was too drunk to consent.
Allegedly McDonald met the girl, who he claims was very coherent and she wanted to go back to his hotel with him. He agreed and on the way text Evans to say he had met a girl.
She apparently initiated sex with McDonald, then Evans came around and McDonald asked if Evans could join. The woman allegedly consented but the next morning awoke naked and alone in the hotel room with very little memory of what had happened.
While McDonald was cleared of all charges (something I still don’t understand), Evans was found guilty of rape and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Evans has not denied having sex with the girl but continues to maintain his innocence because she consented.
In another cruel twist, some people released the victim’s name on Twitter, which of course led to her being harassed by supporters of Evans.

Evans was released from prison in the 17th October this year after serving just 2 and half years of his 5 year sentence. Now if that was where this story ended that would be fine, but sadly it’s not. This week Evans resumed training with his former club Sheffield United. I know I am usually one of the most vocal advocates for giving second chances, but when it comes to public figures, they unfortunately do need to be held to a higher standard.

By allowing Ched Evans to train with the team and paving the way for him to resume his footballing career, Sheffield United are sending a message to their young supporters that rape is a forgiveable offence. It’s not. The Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) have argued that if Evans was a builder or a banker he would be allowed to resume that type of work without any issues. The problem is builders and bankers do not have fans, particularly young impressionable ones, who come and watch them work, they don’t have kids asking for autographs and telling them they want to be “just like them” (apart from their own kids, probably.)

The other problem is Evans’ lack of remorse for his actions. He’s not sorry he did it, he’s sorry he got caught. He walks around playing the victim, telling of how his life has been ruined by this incident. If it has, it’s his own fault. He was not overtly intoxicated on the night in question, he knew what he was doing. He is NOT the victim here, the victim is the young woman he took advantage of and who was named and subject to abuse and harassment on Twitter.

I might be slightly more sympathetic to Evans if he admitted to his actions, but he still maintains his innocence and continues to try and “clear his name.” When released from jail, his first action was to issue an apology, not to his victim, but to his family and partner. If Evans would like to resume his role as a public figure and role model for children, the least he can do is acknowledge that he did something wrong and apologise to his victim. He should be donating to and working with women’s groups to educate young people and inform them that an intoxicated person cannot consent and this is rape. Instead he is refusing to even acknowledge the suffering he has cause this young woman.

While I understand that his family and partner want to stand by him and not believe the worst but he has been convicted. By posting on their website some of the evidence from the trial including the security footage of the young woman entering the hotel and asking you to “judge for yourself,” they are undermining the victim and the justice system. Yes, we all know that the justice system can get it wrong but showing a blurry, time-lapse video of the victim and then extrapolating that she must be able to consent because she does not fall down is beyond insulting. (The fact that 30 seconds of the video also appear to have been edited out is slightly concerning.) Whenever a woman says she is raped, there should NEVER, EVER be a reason to question that.

Just so we are very, VERY clear. Rape is rape, regardless of the circumstances. Even if a woman does seem to consent, if she’s so drunk she can barely stand then she CANNOT consent and this IS RAPE. If a woman at first consents then asks to stop mid-act but the other party continues, this is rape. If a woman says no but, in the words of Robin Thicke, “you know she wants it,” and you go for it anyway, this is rape.

Regardless of how you feel about Evans and his and Sheffield United’s reaction, it is important to remember who the victim is here, not Evans and his family, but the young woman who was raped. I’m glad I ripped up my posters.

If you would like to sign the Change petition to encourage Sheffield United not to reinstate Ched Evans, please go here.

Alternatively, if you think he should be reinstated, there’s also a petition for that here.

If you would like to know more, below are the articles I used to help me write this.