Perhaps the most controversial footballing debate this year – or even this decade – is the question of if convicted rapist Ched Evans should be allowed to return to football now he has served his sentence.
Obviously an emotive issue outside of football, mixing views on rape with fan opinions has only served to intensify an already difficult issue – but one that only has one answer.
Sheffield United are reportedly considering offering Evans a new deal upon his release and that has prompted widespread outrage from football fans and non football fans alike.
The first thing to understand here is that being a footballer is not a normal job – players are held up to be heroes and revered by fans and the media – not only that, but they are role models for the next generation of people.
Is this something unrepentant Evans deserves to walk back into? Absolutely not. Rape is a crime of power and control. There are few other professions that provide more of either for a player in terms of their interactions with the public – not to mention the effect on their ego.
Should Evans be allowed back into the public eye as a professional footballer after serving his time? That seems to be the most difficult issue, with many people pointing to the fact that he has served his sentence, thus deserves a second chance at rehabilitation like all other released criminals.
Rehabilitation. A word which has been used over and over again when talking about Evans and understandably so. He was convicted in a court of law – unanimously by the jury no less – and sent to prison. He served his time and has now been released.
This is the process all convicted criminals go through, and the question of rehabilitation is one that arises time and time again. Everyone comes out of prison a different person. It would be impossible not to – but not everyone is rehabilitated – hence why the rates of reoffenders are so high.
Before this becomes a debate on reoffending and rape as a whole, let us get back to Evans specifically. He has not been rehabilitated. That is impossible given he still protests his innocence and to a disgusting level at that, refusing to apologise to the victim at all.
His family and supporters have been as bad in leading the campaign to exonerate him. He was convicted at the original trial. His appeal was rejected. He is now free, but as a convicted rapist who will not accept his guilt and who has allowed the victim in all of this to become the one persecuted.
She lost her right to anonymity. She had to move away from her home and assume a new identity because of the Twitter lynch mob and the way his supporters vilified her.
So she had a drink. A lot of drinks. So what. Call it irresponsible – fine. That irresponsibility is a little bit too close to home for most of us if we are being honest.
The debate over being ‘too drunk to consent’ and indeed ‘levels of rape’ has been reignited once again this week with comments from the likes of Judy Finnegan and Sarah Vine – with the human race showing various levels of understanding and comprehension – but let us be clear here, violent or not, it was rape. Drunk or not, it was rape.
Does Finnigan really think that the victim will feel differently about the events of that night because she was drunk?
She will still feel scared, violated and a victim. Feelings of worthlessness and self recrimination are a common aftereffect of rape – and the people – women especially – claiming that because she was drunk, Evans’ victim was partly to blame are totally missing the point that she will probably have considered this time and time again. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’ will be prevalent in her thoughts more than they could possibly imagine.
Should we feel differently because he did not hit her or because she was drunk? No.
If she had one or one hundred drinks, the outcome was still the same. The response and reaction to it being reported and subsequently going to trial – with the victim being dragged through the mud whilst Evans and his family played the victims is a huge reason why the vast majority of rapes go unreported and the conviction rates are so low.
This was not a case of blurred consent – the victim was too drunk to consent – making it rape no matter how you look at it, and Evans saw what he assumed was an easy option and took it.
The idea put forward by Finnigan and Vine of ‘levels of rape’ is simply disgusting – but an all too common response. Rape is rape. The victim goes through the same emotions and same sexual violation no matter if it is a stranger, partner, friend or violent man in a dark street corner.
The victim still has to go through the same invasive medial examination, the same police questioning, the same counselling, the same nightmares that will wake them up at night, the same trial, the same memories for the rest of their life.
The only thing that has ‘levels’ here is the way society reacts.
The levels of sympathy for a victim who has been raped by a violent stranger in the street are instantaneous and overwhelming. A person who gets drunk and goes home with a friend or someone they met on a night out? Not a chance. They become the ones on trial and the Evans case is exhibit A of this – and of just how badly things need to change.
Alcohol levels aside, lack of violence aside, what Evans did was still rape and still a violation in the worst way – and he has not shown one iota of remorse for it – and in the same vein, football should show him none at all either.
Evans claims he is sorry for cheating on his girlfriend – and that was ‘unforgivable’ but he steadfastly claims that it was ‘definitely consensual.’ Where to even begin with those comments. Really they sum Evans and his sheer arrogance up.
His mother is no better, claiming: ‘We just hope the feminist gang will soon find something else to go and bang their drum about’ as they ‘do not know all the facts’. Well one assumes that the court of law that convicted him did. The rest of his family simply attack anyone who dares to express an opinion they do not agree with over social media.
For the majority of people, there is no debate. Evans has been convicted of one of the ugliest offences possible. Even uglier is the way both he, his family and friends have conducted themselves. There is no place in the beautiful game for Ched Evans or anyone like him.
Footyettes. Do you think Evans should be allowed back into football? Where do you stand on this debate? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.