Friday, January 09, 2015

The voice of the victim in the Ched Evans case

The numerous newspaper articles and the constant press coverage of the Ched Evans case have finally prompted me to write, including BBC Question Time last night.  We are used to politicians taking up the cases of those who they believe to be innocent.   In this blog I am purely relying on the transcript of the Court of Appeal Judgement in the application for leave to appeal.  The victim's family have not approached me, and I am blogging because it matters.  Rape is an offence that is degrading, it dehumanises women or men who are the victims of rape.  It views the person being raped as a thing - an object, there for sex and nothing else, it treats the woman (or man or child) as a thing, there for the gratification of the rapist not a human being.    The psychological effects are devastating, often not only for the victim but for their family, and, if they have one, their partner.

I am clearly not one of the 12 jurors in the case, I am not a QC, I am not a Judge,  I am not a High Court Judge I am clearly not the Lord Chief Justice.  All these people know the case better than me.  They have all seen the evidence.  I have not.   All of these people have either convicted Ched Evans, or have upheld the rape conviction.

My name is in the public domain because I have chosen to take that course and I put myself up for election, Ched Evans's victim didn't make that choice.  I have not been named by nasty people on twitter, by misogynists or those that think it is ok to threaten women, be violent, to rape and to violate women. The victim in the Ched Evans case has been hounded by social media, by people who have not given her the time and space to recover.  She is young, and for her it may well take her many years to up the strength to be able to make choices, and choose how she feels, how she reacts to being in a public space not knowing which men she can trust and which she can't, and to finally realise that taking control is what prevents the perpetrator having control over your life.  That victim has had to move away from her family and friends and her father has described the impact on his daughter in an article which can be widely access on the internet.  His account of the impact it has had on her is quite simply awful.  Every time the media report on Ched Evans it brings her in to the public arena through no fault of her own.

Mr Evans' carefully crafted recent statement could have been made the day he was released from prison.   Whatever his view was of what happened that night, and whether or not he believed that his victim consented it was clear, and always has been clear, that his actions that night had a devastating effect on the women that he had sexual intercourse with.  Mr Evans actions have led to her having to move, change her name, live under a  form of a prison sentence longer than his because of his actions, and others that support him...whether or not he agrees with their actions.  Her prison sentence is worse because there is no end to it - there is no walking through the gates into freedom.  She has had to move away from family and friends, because repeatedly and publicly his supporters are trashing her reputation.  Attacking a victims reputation is now governed by strict legal rules in court. so supporters of Mr Evans are now doing this on Facebook, on twitter this campaign is now being undertaken in the court of public opinion, and the victim can not speak out and defend herself as it will just feed the media frenzy, and risk her anonymity being blown again.

Every time Mr Evans goes for a new job - his fight to overturn his conviction implies that she is a liar, despite the fact that 12 independent people believed her, and the other witnesses who described the condition she was in.  The High Court Judge said there were no grounds of appeal, so did one of the most senior experienced criminal law judges, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other Court of Appeal Judges.  They made it clear as a matter of law the Judge in the case acted properly, he directed the Jury properly and there was no lurking doubt about the conviction.  The so called apology is too little and certainly too late.

Mr Evans didn't speak out against the "mob justice" he now feels he is a victim of, but it was ok for the women Mr Evans had sex with to be hounded, to have to move not once, not twice but a number of times, being forced to change her name and identity over three times.  Mr Evans was willing to take a risk. I don't know how much he had to drink - but Mr Evans and other men like him need to know that is not ok not to care, that if you don't know or care whether or not the women you are in bed with is so drunk, or "off her head" whether through drink, drugs or having a drink spiked that in todays society is not acceptable for a man to abuse that situation, and the law makes it clear that this is rape.

You can't pick a "bird" who is drunk and think it is ok to not to care whether or not she is consenting.    If I was a sponsor of a football club I wouldn't want Mr Evans to play for the club I support and I wouldn't want my company logo to be in the shirt that Mr Evans may or might wear.

Of course Mr Evans has served his time, but I am amazed that the Football Association would allow a professional footballer to be able to waltz back into the professional game.  The recent developments from the Football Association are welcome and it is about time they look at the rules they have and change them to prevent this situation ever happening again in the future.  It would be inconceivable that a Doctor would be allowed to practice, a teacher wouldn't be able to go back to teaching, no MP would be able to be elected, no lawyer could practice.

Perhaps the past few months have made Mr Evans realise what it is like to have to walk away from your home, your friends, your job.  He hasn't had to  change his name, he still wants to be treated like a footballer, rather than a convicted rapist - which is he - until and if, and its a big IF his conviction is ever overturned.  Any person who is convicted and applies for a job, in most job applications will have to disclose that conviction, and many will find that employers will not want to employ them.  That is what happens day in day out to those coming out of prison.

In the meantime lets hope that this case does make sure that the FA takes robust action, that it adopts clear rules which ensure that this position isn't repeated in the future, and that no other victim is going to have to watch as the perpetrator of the offence touts around club after club putting the victim back into the press time and time again, with all the distress that must cause to her, her family and her friends.