It’s barely a week old, but so far in 2015, Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce have thrown their support behind Ched Evans and Oldham Athletic even came close to signing the convicted rapist. The ugly football story of 2014 isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
When it comes to Ched Evans, it has been a real eye opener for me just how many people who clearly only have a general gist of the story, yet seem to feel a need to wade into the conversation, inflicting their ill informed, often misogynistic opinions on the rest of us; which has culminated in certain level of rapist sympathizing and victim blaming.
Victim. That’s right, the victim. The person who seems to get the least amount of thought or attention, the person whose life has been destroyed; all forgotten because we need a national moral debate over whether a convicted rapist should or shouldn’t be allowed to play football again.
I keep hearing people say “he should be allowed to play”, and of course, they’re right – he should be allowed play. Indeed, he has a right to play; just like football clubs have a right to not want anything to do with him; and thankfully the vast majority of football clubs don’t want to go anywhere near him.
“He has served his time” is another sign of someone not fully aware of the facts. He hasn’t served his time; he is about half way through serving his time. Evans was given a 5 year sentence, 2 and a half of which were to be served behind bars and 2 and a half on licence – like probation. As for getting his life back on track, 2 and a half years seems like a relative short time when you consider his victim has just had to move home and change her identity for the 5th time since this ordeal, thanks to the hideous website vilifying her, and the disgusting behavior of his friends and supporters; tracking her down and naming her on social media websites.
What muddies the water seems to be the nature of the incident itself. Its not a – for lack of a better word – “classic” rape; its not some helpless woman being dragged down a dark alleyway and violently raped by some complete stranger. It’s an issue of consent.
Maybe it’s the lad culture our society is being swallowed up by that is causing so many people to instantly think that Evans is innocent or that the victim is lying for some reason – though what she has to gain from doing so I cant quite grasp.
Maybe too many people see themselves in Evans’ actions, and are too horrified to admit that those actions are indeed rape. That “classic” rape that I mentioned a few paragraphs above, which while it is the most common one used on film, is far from the most common form of rape, in fact it makes up just under 10% of rape cases. The majority of rape cases happen where one party is in a position of power over the other.
A woman too afraid to say no to an abusive husband, a boss making sexual advances on an employee knowing they fear saying no for the repercussions it might have on their employment. Or a figure within the local community, who has quite a bit of standing and support, like a religious figure, a politician or celebrity using that position as an implied form of intimidation. These are all more common forms.
I think it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the lifestyle of being a professional footballer had some part to play in this sordid incident. Footballers are put up on pedestals, they are treated and adored like superstars. They get what they want, when they want it, and are surrounded by an entourage of people telling them how great they are, constantly fueling their ego. You don’t have to be an elite star in the upper echelons either; even for clubs in the Championship or League 1 and 2, while they may not be international stars, they are still celebrities within their local towns, and they are well recognized members of their communities.
To quote a line from Casino Royale, “women are nothing more than disposable pleasures, rather than meaningful pursuits”; I think this quote is a fair reflection on how a large portion of our society still views women. Women are objects for men to pull and “bang” on a Saturday night; and while its entirely possible that Evans didn’t set out to rape that girl, it’s also entirely possible that he didn’t even realize that he was raping her at the time of the incident either. But he was, and he did.
“It would be so easy to happen to you” is a contemplation that I’ve heard a few men make when discussing the Ched Evans case. Would it though? I mean, really? How easily could it happen? From my own perspective; if I was on a night out; and my friend text me saying “Got a bird”, the last thing on my mind would to be call over and see if he needed a hand – so to speak. Even if I was staying with him, and had no choice but to go back to where he had brought this “bird” he had gotten himself, the idea that I would look to join in while he took advantage of a near unconscious teenager, is completely baffling to me. Only a misogynistic, complete lack of respect women in general would make me even remotely contemplate doing so. And if I did, it would be rape.
We’re now at a stage where Evans is looking to rebuild his life – something his victim is currently doing for the fifth time – and he is looking to go back to playing football. I said earlier that he is allowed to play again, he has the right to do so; but should he have that right?
There are other professions out there that you would be immediately excluded from working in should you be a convicted rapist; such as a doctor, a teacher, a police officer etc. The idea behind that being that those professions put people in charge of vulnerable people and children, and football doesn’t, so there. I’ve already laid my thoughts out on how a footballer’s lifestyle may have had some form of influence on the incident in hand, and how the majority of rapes occur from someone in a position of power, then Evans being a footballer again does restore him to a position of power.
Not only that, but why should he be allowed to play again? The idea of prison is one about rehabilitation, leading to the reintegration of the convicted back into society. Ched Evans has shown no remorse for his crime, nor compassion for his victim. Even if he still believes that he didn’t rape that girl, he could still show compassion for her current plight. He could issue a statement condemning those who publicly name her on social media. He could condemn his supporters who threatened Jessica Ennis with rape if she removed her name from the stands at Bramall Lane should Sheffield United resign the convicted rapist.
He could use his position in the public eye to help educate a generation of people on what the consent laws are. He could acknowledge that he didn’t believe what he was doing was rape, but he understands it now. But no, there has been nothing like that. Evans still seems to think that the only thing he did wrong the night in question was cheat on his girlfriend. How do you reintegrate someone back into society who still thinks he has done no wrong?
Other people, notably Marlon King and Lee Hughes have gone back to football after committing serious crimes, so why can’t Ched Evans? For a start, two wrongs don’t make a right, and just because the wrong decision has been made in the past, that doesn’t justify continuing to make the wrong decision moving forward. You have to start somewhere, and football (or at least the FA) can draw a line in the sand with this case.
It saddens, but doesn’t surprise me that the likes of Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce have shown support for Evans. Football is a closed shop when it comes to this kind of thing. It’s run by old-fashioned dinosaurs, who have an almost cult like attitude to thing when it comes to situations like this. You only have to look at the recent scandals with Malky Mackay and his offensive text messages for anecdotal evidence of that. Mackay offended pretty much everyone with a series of texts, leaving no race or minority unturned. Yet, when asked about him in press conferences, the amount of people in a position of power in football who seemed to turn a blind eye to all of that and instead focus on Malky being “a good footballing man” was alarming.
Some sections of football will try and stand behind Ched Evans, but thankfully they seem to be in the minority at the moment. From the top down, football is a game that is filled with corruption and a serious lack of morals; but maybe we are finally seeing the game take a united stance on hideous crimes such as rape.
by Andrew Furlong