Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2012. Photo: Getty
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The “ruined lives” of Oscar Pistorius and Ched Evans: why do men matter more than women?

The narrative of the fallen abuser is all too familiar: the ruined life that matters is the man’s rather than the woman he raped, hit or killed.

Update, 14/10/16 : On 14 October 2016, Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape following a retrial. This article was published before this new verdict. 

Ched Evans, professional footballer and convicted rapist, will be walking out of prison on Friday. It’s unclear whether he will be walking back into his career and the money and celebrity that come with it. Over 100,000 people have signed a petition against Evans being reinstated by his ex-club, Sheffield United. The boys have his back though. The chief of the Professional Footballers’ Association said this weekend Evans should be able to return to football. Rapists don’t just have the right to rebuild their lives, it seems. They have the right to be adored, to stroll back to the privileged life they threw away when they forced themselves inside a woman.

CCTV footage showed Evans’s victim was so drunk the night he raped her that she was stumbling into his friend as she walked. She woke up dazed and naked, her clothes scattered on a hotel room floor.

“The complainant was 19 years of age and was extremely intoxicated...As the jury have found, she was in no condition to have sexual intercourse,” the judge told Evans after the trial. “When you arrived at the hotel, you must have realised that.”

It might be worth remembering that as Evans continues to protest his innocence. Calls for a convicted rapist to be allowed to get on with his life somehow mean less when the convicted rapist refuses to admit he did anything wrong. And when “getting on with his life” means sliding back into a position of status and influence, where every Saturday teenage boys would watch an unapologetic rapist cheered and idolised.

I don’t know whether not admitting his guilt is a cynical PR move to soften his return to professional football or Evans has genuinely convinced himself that getting off inside a semi-unconscious woman is either not rape or it is rape and that is okay. He is not alone. Read the #justiceforched hashtag if you need proof of that. The teenager Evans raped is a “dirty slag” and “a money grabbing slut”. He is a hero and his fans, caught in a world where women can simultaneously be rape victims and whores out to ruin men, are on the “one week” countdown until he gets his life back.

We are getting familiar with the narrative of the fallen abuser: the ruined life that matters is the man’s rather than the woman he raped, hit or murdered. The now infamous CNN anchor who reported on the Steubenville rape case and found it “incredibly difficult”, not to see photos of a girl passed around like meat but to see two rapists “that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watch[ing] as they believed their life fell apart”. The NFL needed an actual video of Ray Rice punching his fiancée before getting round to suspending him.

Look at Oscar Pistorius, back in court this week for sentencing and already victimised. “We are left with a broken man,” his personal psychologist remarked. One “who has lost everything”. Still, less than Reeva Steenkamp, I think.

It took the Paralympic committee less than a day after Pistorius was found guilty of killing a woman before welcoming him back to the fold.

“Oscar’s done a great deal for the Paralympic movement. He’s been an inspiration to millions...,” Craig Spence, the International Paralympic Committee director of media and communications, told BBC Radio 5 Live. “If he wishes to resume his athletics career then we wouldn’t step in his way – we would allow him to compete again in the future.”

An abused female body counts for less than a male body’s ability to run or kick a ball - whether she is raped in a foreign hotel bed or laying dead on her bathroom floor.

I don’t want Ched Evans to rot in jail. I do want him to beg for forgiveness. I want basic remorse to be the absolute minimum needed for any football club to touch him. To exist in a society that would not make this even a question.

I can only imagine how Evans’s victim would feel watching him slip back on his Sheffield United strip; ten men slapping him on the back and tens of thousands cheering. We do know she’d be doing it somewhere she didn’t grow up. The #justiceforched mob saw to it that she had to move home and change identity.

“Until now, [Ched Evans] had a promising career to which he has devoted his whole life since his teens,” Evans’s defence QC says. “That career has now been lost.”

The fallen abuser is always the real victim. Evans and Pistorius play to a culture ready to forgive and excuse them. They have killed and raped women and are wanting their own lives back. This is not rehabilitation. It’s an insult.
 

Frances Ryan is a journalist and political researcher. She writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman, and others on disability, feminism, and most areas of equality you throw at her. She has a doctorate in inequality in education. Her website is here.

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.