[Trigger warning: this article discusses rape]
In April 2012, the footballer Ched Evans was convicted of rape. After serving half of his five year sentence, the former Wales international was released from prison today (17 October). Unfortunately, there’s a chance he’ll be able to slip straight back into his playing career. Sheffield United, Evans’ former club, quietly let his contract run down following his conviction, and the club is now considering re-signing the striker. Celebrities have even wandered into the debate – stunningly, Judy Finnigan claimed that the sexual assault was “not violent”. In response, over 150,000 people have signed an online petition to the club demanding that Evans not be reinstated.
If Evans is allowed to resume playing professionally, it will be a horrific insult to victims of sexual violence. It will also be ignorant of the devastating effects of his attack on his 19 year old victim: after the trauma of the rape, she was outed on social media and received so much abuse from Evans’ supporters that she was forced to relocate and change her identity. Evans, meanwhile, may be able to jump straight back into a highly paid, rewarding career, where we will be glorified on a weekly basis.
The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, has argued that he should be allowed to return to play after his release, stating: “I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything”. But as Radhika Sanghani has pointed out in the Telegraph, the purpose of prisons is to rehabilitate, and Evans’ behaviour shows no evidence of this. He maintains his innocence in the face of solid evidence to the contrary, and despite having an appeal against his conviction dismissed. Nor has he issued any kind of apology or recognition of the importance of consent. As so often happens with rape, the victim has been shamed and persecuted, while the perpetrator carries on after a slap on the wrist. Sexual violence continues to be trivialised like no other form of abuse, and male celebrities are shown once again to be somehow above the law.
Here at qmunicate we believe it’s important to keep up the fight against rape culture, and we ask all our readers to sign the petition here.
We can’t let yet another rapist’s crimes be slowly but surely forgotten.
[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]