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A setback for justice

October 24th, 2016 | by Tamsin Daisy Rees
A setback for justice
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Ched Evans was found guilty of rape. After serving some of his sentence, he was granted a re-trial from which he walked free. How? His defence found a way to use the victim’s sexual history to grant an appeal by claiming she had behaved in a similar way with other men. Now, her life is ruined and Evans is receiving new offers to play football.

Supposedly, this woman said some things to Evans, none of which she can remember, and she said similar phrases to men on different occasions. To the jury, this seemed like a cause for reasonable doubt that Evan’s raped a woman too drunk to consent, to whom he didn’t say a word, a woman so intoxicated she fell over and twisted her ankle on the same night. She can’t remember Evans’ friend Clayton McDonald taking her to a hotel room where he also had sex with her, who told Evans by text he had “got a bird”. Evans remembers, and he took this all to mean consent.

“The man now stressing the importance of educating young people about consent cannot even distinguish what consent is”

This re-trial does not mean Evans did not rape that woman. It does not mean he is not a sexual abuser, and it does not mean he is innocent. It means that once again, another high profile case of sexual violence against a young woman has not resulted in justice for her. Once again, a rich white male gets away with it and gets to continue with his life as normal. It reiterates an alarming narrative to other victims of sexual violence: we cannot trust the authorities to protect us when we are at our most vulnerable and asking for help, asking for justice, asking to be taken seriously as a victim of a crime.

This affront to justice sends a disturbing message to victims of sexual violence, inflaming the archaic anxiety of whether or not they will be ‘believed’. Believe her. Give a chance to the people that come forward and ask for help.  Out of 1000 rape cases, 994 of the accused will walk free. Those who report sexual violence are routinely victimised, stalked, abused, cast out, and admonished for contacting the authorities. Not that many people coming forward are lying. Out of 1000 rape cases, more than 6 really happened.

This monstrous process for victims is horrible, humiliating, and inherently misogynistic. With the Evans case in particular, the victim’s sexual history was scrutinised, with ex-boyfriends as ‘witnesses’. Not only is past sexual history completely irrelevant, applying it exposes the victim and makes them a target of disgust and ridicule. Regardless of sexual history no one, ever, deserves to be raped.

“Those who report sexual violence are routinely victimised”

This exercise in victimisation offers pity to the accused and the ruination of their professional careers, while ignoring the incredible damage to the victim and everyone who loves them and depends on them. In Ched Evan’s case, some media critics laughably cited Sheffield football club as having gone through a traumatic experience, posing questions of how they would recover. Directing blame for the jeopardy of a possible rapist’s illustrious sporting career on a powerless victim would be a dark satire even for a comedy sketch. For Ched Evans to have the audacity to then call “for more education on alcohol and consent” doesn’t even make a cut at being ironic — this is real life and breaks my heart and makes me want to vomit.

This travesty continues. Evans told the Mail on Sunday “My behaviour that night was not acceptable – but it wasn’t a crime.” The man now stressing the importance of educating young people about consent cannot even distinguish what consent is, and is now let back into society without any successful rehabilitation. Consent equals respect, but as Laura Bates cited one twitter user, it’s “too low a bar. Hold out for enthusiasm.” If someone is not in the position to consent, they cannot consent. If someone is too drunk to enthusiastically consent, they cannot consent.

This has to stop. Paying attention to your partner’s body language is an enormous part of sex— with Evans this clearly did not happen. She could not consent, and Ched Evans did not show an ounce of respect for her. The systematically predatory and misogynistic conduct of this case sets a discouraging example to other victims of sexual violence.

I would understand if it would deter some victims from persevering for their justice altogether. A victim’s fight for justice is already exhausting, traumatic and seemingly inconsequential.

But, if you can fight, fight. We need to keep pushing back against the oppression of victims. For what it’s worth, many of us side with the victims. We see you, we believe you, and we support you.

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