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.