Some Truths are Facts, And Some Facts are True. But The Earth Is Not Flat And Wishing Won’t Make It So.

Now, just curve it round a little this way...
Now, just curve it round a little this way…

Some truths are facts, certain as far as anything can be, supportable by empirical, statistical and observational evidence. Gravity, for example – the presence of oxygen and the process of osmosis. These are facts, which are true, and would be factually true with or without anyone believing it.

Of course some people will argue that the facts are different and provide other evidence – often terribly dubious in their origin and spun, nay twisted, like so much hot glass or woven sugar on a cake – in to something which looks like a fact, but isn’t.

Flat Earth believers, for example. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they believe that the earth is flat. Does it impact on the lives of the people we love and care about that they believe this? No, not really. It doesn’t stop them being kind to their neighbours (at least I would hope not), or paying their taxes. It’s a foolish myth, but not a dangerous one. It doesn’t perpetuate oppression to believe it, or make the lives of vulnerable people more difficult to share such a belief with others. They believe it to be true, and believe the evidence to be factual.

But some truths are not facts.

Some truths are personal – they might be an individuals lived experience of something that many others have not shared; a personal realisation or awakening, a message decoded through a dream which leads to a better understanding. These are not less true by being only personally true to one or a few people. Something does not have to be universally true to be valid. Much of human experience is like this: there are common themes and threads, and yet also distinctive incidents. Grief, for example. Most people have the experience of losing a friend or loved one, but every person experiences grief differently and may find that every experience of grief is different than before.

Some truths are real then, but not true for you – or me.

I am a Christian – this a personal truth, a fact about me, and an act of faith and hope. My personal truths inform me about the existence of God, facts inform me about the existence of Jesus. Faith teaches me that Jesus was the Divine Incarnate. I will share this belief, appropriately within the given conversation, and I will share this belief in how I behave – after all, I believe that God created us all in Her image and so, even when it might be hard to, I will try and find some way to reflect that.  No, I am not terribly holy: I am human and imperfect so sometimes I will lose patience, or feel less than charitable, or find that the kindest thing to do for myself is to walk away. And yes, I swear – sometimes a lot, especially if I shut my thumb in a car door, like I did last year.

And sometimes the most faithful and true thing I can do is not walk away but speak up: because sometimes a fact is a fact that is true – sometimes the Earth is not flat now matter how much you believe it to be.

Rape myths are ideas which are not based in empirical, statistical evidence. Rape myths are not based on facts. A myth is defined in the following manner:

An ancient story or set of stories. A commonly believed – but false – idea. A popular belief that is not true.

Rape myths fall under this descriptor: despite the statistical evidence which clearly shows that deliberate false claims of rape are in the tiny minority of cases, there are some who truly believe most claims are false. Despite the clear statistical and empirical evidence that the majority of those raped and abused are the victims of people known to them, there are still those who only believe it is real rape if the rapist is a stranger who drags his victims down a darkened alley. And whilst so much evidence proves otherwise, there are those who believe that rape is only violent if the rapist threatens his victim with a knife.

In other words, some people are like those who believe in a Flat Earth – they believe these things to be true, and some who believe it passionately will even have ‘evidence’ which looks factual, but is neither fact, or truth. And it doesn’t mean that those people can’t be kind to their dogs, or nice to their elderly neighbours, and you can’t make laws for the weird things that people think.

But we do have to consider how those beliefs impact on the most vulnerable group of people, in the context of what they think and believe: the rape victims. The ones who almost never see justice in the courts; the ones who probably will never report because they are terrified of never being believed; those whose voices are silenced by fear and the pervasive myths which, despite being wrong, heap further scars on already scarred and wounded hearts.

For those who bear that cross, for those who carry that burden, for those who are imprisoned in the fear that such harmful, dangerous and toxic myths perpetuate, voices must be raised and must be heard. Because one day, those who believe in those rape myths will be like those who believe in a Flat Earth: a harmless minority, with odd ideas that the rest of us don’t understand, but who will, by their diminishing, become harmless.

And that might not be a fact, yet – and it is certainly an article of faith. But it will be true, one day, because the earth is not flat and it never has been.

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A Judge Without Judgement – A Child Without Justice: On The Stuart Kerner Sentence. (CN)

A young 15 year old girl gets a crush on a teacher. She makes her crush known to the teacher concerned, a married man who has one child with his wife and another on the way. Instead of making sensible choices in order to protect the child, he chooses instead to use the girl’s crush and abuse her trust in him: he has sex with her (a problem because she is 15 and he is an adult) at the school and at his home. Because she has a crush on the teacher, the girl believes the activity to be acceptable. She wants to ‘feel special’ – like many young vulnerable girls, she wants to feel loved. She ascribes romantic ideals to the ‘relationship’ and says it was ‘written in the stars’.

Then someone finds out (because in a school nothing stays hidden for long), and the police get involved.

The teacher denies it and calls the girl a liar. Her ‘friends’ call her a ‘stalker’. The judge calls her manipulative, and also says that she is a ‘stalker’ who groomed the teacher.

The teacher is described as a ‘well respected man’, of ‘exemplary character’, that he was ‘under pressure’ and ‘gave in to temptation’.

And once again the sympathy, focus and attention is given to the abuser, whilst adults who should know better think that the child who was exploited by the adult because of her crush is somehow in possession of special powers; that she is, in fact, assumed to have power because  of the adults desire to exploit her.  She is not understood as, treated as or respected for being the victim.

The teacher is even affirmed by the judge, and the media frame the abusive, exploitative behaviour of an adult male as an affair – as a forbidden relationship that got found out.

She was 15. If anyone truly believes that a grown man’s desire to exploit her for his personal benefit somehow gives her ‘power’ in that dynamic, then you need to ask yourself why you think that.

The sentence is now under review.

 

 

One Last Open Letter to Ched Evans – Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Dear Ched Evans

So today, as the latest attempt to re-enter the world of football fell through, you issued a statement which included a ‘wholehearted apology’ for how your actions of that night affected ‘many people, not least the woman concerned.’

Not least, indeed, Mr Evans.

You state that those people who have repeatedly doxxed (revealed the identity of) the ‘woman concerned’, abused her, and terrified her to the point of requiring one, then many more, secret identities are not your supporters and that you ‘condemn their actions entirely’.

So this last open letter to you is – very simply – a request to back up your words with deeds. Let your yes mean yes, as Jesus would say.

The campaign website funded and run by your Father in Law openly encourages people to hunt down your victim with the promise of money if they can come forward with specific information. It is already under investigation by the Attorney General for using certain CCTV footage, the legality of which is questionable.

The father of your victim has bravely spoken out at least twice about how frightened he is for his daughter, for the effect of this abuse, for her life lived on the run when she did nothing wrong – as she tries desperately to heal from what was done to her.

The CCRC have your appeal – there is no further need for the existence of that website.

If you mean what you say, ask for that website to come down.

Sincerly

Ali Wilkin

 

Update: At some point yesterday, the website was heavily sanitised, with all link and sections removed so that nothing but the landing page is left remaining. However if you google ‘Ched Evans Website cctv’ then link on the website can still be accessed – so that is not good enough. It remains a tool which can be used by those who either hope to cause a young woman harm, or hope at the very least hope to receive cash. So it still remains a tool for the mob (that’s the actual mob in this case) to bully and hound a victim of crime.

So I repeat – the whole website, if your words are to mean anything at all.

Further Update: Most of the links – particularly the CCTV footage and references to tweets sent by the victim – have been restored. It would appear that the site was simply being updated whilst they added the brief statement from Evans following the withdrawal of Oldham Athletics offer.

You have claimed, Ched Evans, that you condemn the actions of those who have engaged in the most severe harassment and abuse of that woman. You have claimed to be ‘sorry’ for the effect that night had on her.

Whilst that website remains up, then this is clearly untrue. Whilst the facility exists for the bullies you claim to disown to abuse your victim, this is clearly untrue. Whilst cash is being offered ‘for information’ which provides a financial incentive to hunt her down, on line or anywhere else, this is clearly untrue.

Are You Really Talking About Rehabilitation For Ched Evans?

 

This post discusses rape, rape culture and the behaviour of a convicted rapist as part of a conversation about rehabilitation. It is important to take care of yourself and so please be aware that some of this post may be triggering. Whilst joining our voices with other victims is important, sometimes the best thing we can do is step back put self first. Never be ashamed to do that. And, as always – I believe you.

 

In the conversation around convicted rapist Ched Evans, and around whether or not he should be allowed to play professional football again, one theme crops up with predictable regularity: that Ched Evans should be allowed to play ‘if we believe in rehabilitation’.

There are three elements to the premise of this narrative. First, that in Evans case there is an assumption that rehabilitation is a return to the same life as was being lived previously – that rehabilitation is somehow analogous to playing professional football. Second, that to oppose his return to the professional game is to be ‘opposed’ to rehabilitation. And third, and most crucially perhaps, that we as a society share a commonly held concept of what rehabilitation looks like, and that those who question the notion that Evans return to football is the best response in this case are ‘rocking the boat’; trouble makers if you will, who don’t like what the community have decided and are making things difficult for everybody else.

So let us start with that last point – that as a society we have a shared understanding of what rehabilitation means. Because it is very apparent to me that we don’t.

This was highlighted again during the brief flurry of interest over the possibility of Evans being signed to Maltese football club Hibernians FC (which in any event Evans is unable to do due to the terms of his license, as confirmed by the Ministry of Justice). Owen Bonnici, Malta’s Minister of Justice, was very clear what his understanding of rehabilitation meant in this case:

What is rehabilitation? In the simplest terms, it is the re-introduction and integration back in to society of someone who has been convicted of a crime and who has served some sort of custodial sentence; that the person concerned does not re-offend, and is able to lead a healthy and productive life.

I think it is important that we first acknowledge this definition is of rehabilitation in the simplest terms; that it is baseline from which we start. I note this because it seems to be treated as the high watermark – that this is all we should expect from Evans and no more. I have a problem with that: rehabilitation is important, far too important, to be treated in such a shoddy fashion. Because in this particular case – and on the basis that every case should be treated individually – there is something else we need to know, something else we need reassurance of:

That Ched Evans will not go out and rape again.

Recidivism: We know that around 1 in 7 rapes or sexual assaults will be committed by someone who has previously offended – and bear in mind that these figures are based on reported cases which have secured a conviction. That’s approximately 400 cases of rape over three years committed by an offender who has been freed after serving approximately half of his sentence. When we also take in to account both the low reporting rates, and low conviction rates, those numbers are the mere tip of the iceberg.

So we need to be sure that Evans not only understands why he was convicted, but that he has shown at least some progress in his understanding of – for example – what consent from someone with whom he wants to have sex looks like. We need to be certain that he recognises why he did not have consent from his victim that evening, and therefore why he was judged to be a rapist. We need to know that he understands why the filming of his victim fell well outside the boundaries of consent, and he has never addressed the issue of persuading his bother and friend to film his victim. (And that’s leaving aside the questions around his behaviour prior to his entering the hotel that evening).

He has only ever referred to what happened that night as a single act of infidelity. In other words, he does not judge what he did to be a crime of violence against a woman: he asks us only to frame it as an act of betrayal against his now fiancée.

We therefore do not know if he is being rehabilitated in that sense.  We don’t know this because he refuses to accept that there was no consent – he refuses to understand, or worse is unable to understand, why there was no consent. He insists that what happened was consensual. In short, he has shown no grasp of the issue of consent and as a result, we have no reassurance that he has, or is being, rehabilitated of his crime.

On this basis then, there is no evidence of – or reason to suppose – that any rehabilitation is occurring. How, then, might Evans be re-integrated in to society if we have no reassurance that recidivism will not occur in this case?

Reintegration. In theory at least, making sure that someone who has served a custodial sentence is able to acquire gainful employment is beneficial to society. And yet unemployment rates are high for ex-offenders, and as the campaign Ban the Box points out, the financial cost of that to society, especially given how positively it reduces re-offending rates, is high. But in Evans case, does that automatically mean re-joining the ranks of professional football? We know that football is not Evans only option – he learned new skills in prison, and could be gainfully re-employed with the assistance of his Father in Law.

However, reintegration is about more than just finding gainful employment: there is a wider issue of responsibility to the community. In the immediate aftermath of the initial guilty verdict, in the intervening years between Evans entering custodial custody and his release on license last October – Evans own family, fans and supporters have all engaged in the extreme bullying and doxxing of his victim resulting in 5 changes of identity and address. There are very serious concerns about the use of the campaign website for Evans – set up and paid for by Evans future Father in Law. As Jane Fae noted extensively last October, (and I strongly recommend those articles to you) the website has become ‘the principle vehicle’ for the bullying of the victim by Evans campaign. The concern about the effect of this website is serious – the victims father is waiting for the Attorney General to investigate material which contributes to what he calls ‘trial by website’: that it feeds a belief amongst supporters of Evans that his victim has potentially committed crimes even though she has engaged in no criminal behaviour.

I have noted Evans silence in respect of the bullying of his victim previously. Whilst the investigation by the Attorney General is ongoing, I will make no further comment about it.

In such a context, then, on what basis do we understand Evans to be ‘reintegrating’ back in to society?

What then is the basis for the assertion that Evans is ‘being’ rehabilitated? What evidence is there that, given the all of the above factors, returning to professional football would be the appropriate manner by which any rehabilitation could be continued or completed? Because if all of the above factors are to be considered acceptable, where does that leave our understanding of rehabilitation as a society?

And if all of the above factors are to ignored – do we even have any reassurance that our society is able to offer rehabilitation to those who want it?

 

 

Of course those who support Evans return to professional football because this alone somehow evidences rehabilitation, will also tell you that none of the issues raised above count because Evans maintains his innocence and ‘has a right to do so’.

In which case, why are they even talking about rehabilitation when they don’t believe it is required?