Ched Evans and the wrong kind of rape
Last week Ched Evans, the leading goalscorer for Championship aspirants Sheffield United, was convicted of the rape of a 19-year old woman: a crime for which he received a five-year prison sentence. Evans’ friend, his team-mate Clayton McDonald, had brought the woman back to a hotel with him: McDonald had sexual intercourse with her, after which Evans did so. It was ruled that the woman was too drunk to have given Evans consent. McDonald was acquitted of the same charge.
The response from several quarters has been interesting. The victim’s supposed name is said to have been revealed, and to have been subjected to abuse on Twitter. One of Evans’s team-mates has even called the victim a “slag” and a “money-grabbing little tramp”. Meanwhile, the PFA, in what looks at best to be a PR problem, has named Evans to its League 1 team of the year.
It has been equally interesting to read the thoughts of many others on Twitter. Of course, there are the usual virulent types, but there are also those who seem genuinely confused by the ruling. How, they ask, can McDonald have been cleared of rape, and his close friend convicted? Some are commenting that surely she agreed to have sex with both of them? Wasn’t it a simple case of her waking up the next day, regretting it, and then crying foul? The CCTV evidence however proved that she had in fact gone to the hotel in a taxi only with McDonald. He then later texted Evans and invited him over to the room stating he had “got a bird”.
I wonder if, at some level, several people feel that Evans was convicted of “the wrong kind of rape”. The image of rape which many people understand, and at which they recoil in horror, is that of a masked stranger moving out of the dark and setting a knife to the victim’s throat. I think that an image like this is one that people can readily rationalise, because it characterises – almost caricatures – the rapist as nocturnal monster beyond society, instead of someone who moves calmly among us, and who is indistinguishable from anyone else.
The Evans case vexes so many people, I think, because it is so far from the grotesque picture in the above paragraph; because rape implies that sexual consent is always torn violently from a woman, rather than deemed to have been withheld due to mere drunkenness. Otherwise, we have to accept another, more worrying possibility: that, despite the best advocacy efforts of groups like Mumsnet, this scenario is much closer to the everyday reality of rape than we’d all like to think.
Note: The use of the word “supposed” in this piece is not to cast doubt on the testimony of the victim. It is has been used for legal reasons, since the identity of the victim has not been publicly confirmed. Comments are closed to protect the identity of the victim.
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