This week, footballer Ched Evans was jailed for five years after raping a 19-year-old woman. His friend Clayton McDonald was also accused but the jury did not have enough evidence to convict him. However, ‘justice for Ched’ has been served: the man has gone to prison for a crime he has been found to have committed.
While rape is NEVER a positive thing, at the very least this is an instance where a) the survivor felt able to go to the police, and b) her attacker was found guilty. This is worth acknowledging when the 2006-2007 British Crime Survey reports that 1 in every 200 women was raped in that period, but only 800 people were convicted of rape during the same year – meaning that fewer than one in every 100 rape survivors saw their attacker convicted.
It’s bad enough that a woman has been raped and had to endure a court case, but following Evans’ conviction, the nauseating ‘JusticeForChed’ hashtag on Twitter has grown to exponential proportions of misogynistic bile.
Here are some sample tweets from the rape apologists today (April 22): “This girl is a lier’r and a slag and has wreckd someone’s life ched is innocent #justiceforched” (@corbett1989); “In it for the money the slag!! #disgustingcunt #massiveslut #justiceforched” (@IIBenJonesII); “when people go out and socialize and both are drunk it normally happens #bellend u should try gettin out more #justiceforched” (@rohipnol23, who since changed his questionable user name); “@[usernameofsurvivor] #slag #justiceforched its just pure regret for having sex with two lads” (@chizz1889); “#liesgirlstellforattention “I got raped by a footballer.” Ha ha love it! #justiceforched” (@Bethgrady93); “I’ve known him since he was a child he was an still is a lovely lad! Its not the 1st time she’s cried rape! Do the maths #justiceforched” (@mariewalsh22) and on and on it spews.
There are some who claim the survivor ‘cried rape’ because she wanted the money and notoriety…
Many of the more hateful tweets have been removed in the past few hours, doubtless due to the fear of legal repercussions.
In an even more revolting twist, some of the pro-Evans tweeters took it upon themselves to reveal the name of the rape survivor – whose identity was protected by law. The tweeters involved have been reported to the police for contempt of court and harassment. It is my hope that the police reprimand these people, and at the very least oblige them to attend some sessions about the effects of rape on its survivors and hence the need for anonymity.
While the #justiceforched hashtag is far from the first misogynistic thread to trend on Twitter, it is one of the most offensive I’ve seen in a while. Aside from some Tweeters breaking the law to name the alleged survivor, there is the vigilante mob mentality that sprung up between those pro the hashtag, as well as a small number of those who were furious at the hashtag. As much as I feel nothing but contempt for convicted rapists, I do not condone the handful of people who responded to the Tweeters by saying they hoped Evans would be repeatedly raped in the prison showers.
How can we still live in a society where rape is a source of humour; where it is assumed the survivor is ‘crying wolf’ (even after a court finds her attacker guilty); and where the survivor is branded a ‘slag’ for her alleged behaviour prior to the attack? There are some who claim the survivor ‘cried rape’ because she wanted the money and notoriety… an assertion that is so offensive, both to the survivor in question but also to rape survivors the world over, that I’m not going to insult anyone by bothering to respond.
Those who have been raped are ‘survivors’ rather than ‘victims’, because we’re talking about people who have endured a horrific ordeal, one that will haunt them for the rest of their lives – we’re talking about people who have SURVIVED. So show survivors the compassion and understanding they deserve. It is nobody’s place to ‘name’ the person who was raped, and it is nobody’s place to take the law into their own hands to publically, or otherwise, ridicule someone already going through hell. Remember the saying, “Innocent until proven guilty”? Well, remember this, too: Evans has been proven guilty.
If we can do anything to turn a negative into a positive, we should use this stomach-churning incident as an opportunity to challenge the attitudes of misogynist and sexism held by some in sport – both the professionals and the fans. Please note, I’m aware that these are not the views of the majority.
It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the Football Association responds to the behaviour of the players and ‘fans’ concerned, and how the police react to those who took it on themselves to name the woman Evans raped. It would also be interesting to know why it is that there is such a long history of prominent footballers being linked to rape cases. But that’s a topic for another time.
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