Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ched Evans, a rape and the case of an increasingly ignorant mob

Your Reaper knows Caernarfon in North Wales quite well. Before upping sticks to go and spend the rest of my life with Miss Reaper, it was a town that he lived some 45 minutes away from. Yesterday afternoon was an eventful one for in the Crown Court for the town best known for its castle. The Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans was found guilty of the rape of a woman known in court documents simply as R, and was sentenced to a five-year stretch inside. His teammate Clayton McDonald was acquitted of the same charge.

Since then, I have been disturbed not only by the number of people who have taken to Twitter to express support for Evans, but those who are referring to the woman in question in some extremely disturbing ways. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I certainly don't think that it's acceptable to refer to a rape victim as a "slut", an "attention-seeking whore" and quite possibly the most distasteful that I've seen to date, a "money-grabbing cunt". At best, the people who are saying these things are incredibly ignorant. At worst, they're downright offensive.

Your Reaper does not know for sure whether the astonishing ignorance being shown over this story is because media coverage of it is cloaked in legal terminology that most people simply don't understand, or if it's nothing more than people jumping on the bandwagon without doing any research first. Either way, I don't think that the media is doing anywhere near enough to try and explain the verdict in this case properly. As far as I'm aware, there are very few restrictions now in place on the reporting of this case, so it worries me that a humble blogger has to try and dispel some of the myths going around.

All I am able to say by law about the woman is that she is a 19-year old waitress. Her nightmare began last year on May 30th, a Bank Holiday. The woman had been drinking on a night out. Samples taken at the time indicated there were traces of cocaine and cannabis in her system, although it must be pointed out she denies taking them on the night in question. It's understood that she had consumed around two glasses of wine, four double vodkas with lemonade and a shot of sambuca.

Which is where the first criticism comes in. Some have questioned whether the woman in question would have actually been able to get drunk on such a quantity of alcohol. This one is a no-brainer - the answer is, quite simply, yes. Whilst the likes of your Reaper likes to make sure he's well-fed before drinking alcohol, not everyone approaches it in the same way that I do. Let's face it. We have all ended up taking a drink or two with an empty stomach before, and it doesn't do anyone any good. This theory also fails to consider the possibility that one of her drinks was spiked.

Later in the evening, she somehow ended up at the Premier Inn hotel in Rhuddlan. She claims to have next to no idea what happened between leaving a dancing session with friends earlier in the evening and waking up the following morning, so how she ended up here remains a mystery. Whilst here, she ended up having sex with Clayton McDonald. Which leads nicely to the next point, and a chance to answer one of the few legitimate questions that is being raised by the merry band of supporters that Evans seem to have on Twitter.

Why is it that McDonald was acquitted of rape, but that Evans was not? I'll try and explain this as briefly as possible. In the case of McDonald, he most probably ended up in the hotel room with her from the beginning. He may well have paid for the room - we simply don't know. This suggests that the woman in question might well have consented to spending some time with him and to eventually having sex with him - in the circumstances, it is very difficult to see how you could convict a man who was in this situation. Evans, however, was NOT invited to the hotel room - he invited himself over.

The one other complaint that I would like to deal with is the less than kind comments being aimed at the victim of this rape. Although I have seen this accusation made repeatedly over the last 24 hours or so, it was probably put least eloquently by a fellow Sheffield United player Connor Brown, pictured here. In a series of tweets, he claimed that the law was "a load of fucking shit" and that the victim in question was a "money-grabbing little tramp". These tweets have since been deleted and Brown has protected his Twitter account, restricting how many people can access it.

Exactly what these kinds of words say about Brown is not something that I'm going to go into here, but the implication of his words is pretty clear. He appears to be saying that the woman in question wasn't actually raped, but rather, this was a deliberate plan. The men, so goes his narrative, were lured into the bedroom by a knicker-dropping woman who planned to sell her story to the tabloids for a large sum. To say that this kind of thinking is insulting is a given, but it also shows that Brown clearly has no idea how the law works.

Under the law, rape victims are entitled to anonymity throughout the entire process. They cannot be named whilst the men are on trial, they cannot be named in the case of a not guilty verdict and they cannot be named in the case of a guilty verdict. Their anonymity is safe, and any media that breaches this rule can find itself subject to heavy fines and penalties. Rape victims are permitted to speak to the media, although when any form of cash payment is being made - whether to the victim or to a rape victims charity - they lose their anonymity.

Whilst the woman in question might well wish to speak out in order to warn others about the possible dangers of her experience, has anyone considered the fact that she might now just want to be left alone to get on with her life? She is only 19. It would be incredibly unfair and damaging if, at such a young age, she were to be branded and identified according to this terrible nightmare which she has been through. Bear that in mind before making such crass accusations.

I will leave the final words to this tweet from TalkSport Drive, which has been very heavily retweeted in the past 24 hours. It's something that your Reaper takes some encouragement from amidst this sorry saga and words that true sports supporters should think about very carefully.

All these footballers tweeting support for Ched Evans need to have a long hard look at themesleves. What if it was your sister?
22 hours ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

I concur with the sentiments entirely.

* Readers are more than welcome to leave their comments on this post below, whether they are positive or negative. I'm even prepared to host comments which question whether the conviction was right. However, if anyone decides to start posting abuse towards the victim, I won't hesitate to delete your comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've also seen some of the worryingly ignorant and disturbing tweets on this case. It shows that attitudes towards intoxication and consent still appear to lack basic common sense.
I'm not clear on some aspects of this case and I don't think the media are making them clear enough. Rape charges were brought against both men and one was cleared - this implies that she denies consenting to sex with either man but the court ruled she did consent (and was in a fit state to consent) with McDonald. Could this mean that she may face charges for the 'fraudulent' claim against McDonald?
Whatever happens next, I hope the young lady is able to move on from this and that she doesn't venture on to Twitter for a while. We should not tolerate ignorant tweeps who dare to call a rape victim "a slut" (or worse) or that try to defend the actions of a convicted rapist.