“Justice, Stretch Out Your Hand”: Living with Rape Culture [CN/TW]

Ashamed, people turned their faces away
from the woman ranting, asking: Justice,
stretch out your hand. Come down, glittering,
from where you have hidden yourself away.

From “Justice, Come Down” by Minnie Bruce Pratt 

 

Gheorghe_Tattarescu_-_Magdalena

Locker room talk – that’s all it is, of course! how foolish of us silly women to think that there was any reason to feel threatened, belittled, commodified, harassed, worried, frightened, angry, fed up, pissed off when you’ve been doing that thing that’s ‘just’ ‘locker room talk.’

Its just ‘locker room’ talk. Your just explaining what you do. Of course your sorry now, when votes are on the line  when its all been made clear to you. Seeing any relationship between words and actions is really just a bit too ridiculous of us.

And look – look! This guy’s been way ‘worse’ than you, so you’re going to trot out these victims that you are using momentarily to distract us from what you did. Because you have a right to do that, don’t you? This is your precious reputation on the line, and its so bloody unreasonable of us to object to that, isn’t it?

Oh, wait – whats that? It was childish. Oh, I see – well that all makes perfect sense of course. Little boys do silly things and nobody picks them up on it, so really its our fault as mothers, because how can fathers and uncles and friends possibly help pick you up on it when its not their fault for being childish either, right?

Nooo, there’s ‘nothing creepy’ about inviting your little brother and his mate to gawp whilst you do some girl who must have been up for it, because they all are, right? And anyway, you couldn’t help it that you were being childish; and how can there be anything even remotely rapey about receiving a text from a friend that he’s ‘got a girl’ and heading down to meet them because that’s the same thing as invite from her?

Hey – if you are ‘childish’ you can’t possibly be expected to understand that’s not the same thing as consent, can you?

And you cannot possibly be expected to take any responsibility at all because that’s the most unreasonable thing of all, isn’t it?

Its just talk – you were just being childish. Nothing really…

 

But you know what really, really pisses me off, when you get right down to it?

Society buys that crap. I guess it’s easier to convince yourself that the wrong is excusable, when putting the injustice right is too much like realising how much you played a part in the injustice in the first place.

Lord, there is nothing more systemically and outrageously lazy as those simply cannot be bothered. And the cruelty of it should make you spit fire.

But I’m  just some silly hysterical woman who should shut up an put up because anything else is so darned unreasonable of me.

 

 

Ashamed, people turn their face away…

 

 

 

 

#IBelieveHer : When the Going Gets Tough, We Will Stand Together.

By a twist of fate, this week will see both the sentencing of Adam Johnson and the appeal hearing for Ched Evans. So it’s going to be a tough week. It’s always a tough week if you are a victim or survivor of course – some item in the news, some deliberately cruel attack or comment on social media, some careless stupid remark from someone you know: the salt that inflames the wounds that are never quite healed.

But this week will be particularly tough. For the young women who were raped, abused and then maligned publically by Evans, Johnson and their ‘supporters’, this will not be a week that ‘draws a line under it all’. At best it will be another step they must take after too many other steps before it. At worst it will be another occasion which will afford their abusers and rapists, and their well paid legal teams, opportunity to malign and smear them. The woman raped by Ched Evans has already had to relieve her nightmare in preparation for this further appeal – after 5 years of being tried by public mob, of being moved repeatedly to try and protect her. The girl abused by Adam Johnson is no doubt aware of the disgusting things being said by his fans and supporters: I fear what may yet come for her. Whatever sentence Johnson is handed, the mob will be no more inclined to compassion for her than they were for Evans victim.

So my first thoughts and prayers are with them tonight, and what they will endure this week. To them I repeat: I believe you. I send you all my love. We all do – everyone of us who did or did not report send all our best hopes and whatever strength we have to spare.

And it will be a hard week for all victims and survivors, on or off social media. The victim blaming, the shaming, the brutal cruelty that people spew because they think that rape or abuse is about sex, and don’t understand or don’t care that its about power, and the exercise of that power through humiliation and brutality.

I send my love to you too: I believe you. And that means that whatever you have to do to get through this week, to cope when the wounds are inflamed or made raw by the salt society rubs in with abandon – do not apologise for it. Don’t justify it, don’t explain it. You owe nobody that.  You don’t have to engage, you don’t have to speak. And should you choose silence I will stand with you in your silence.

And if you want or need to shout from the rooftops at the vicious cruelty and injustice of it all, or scream in rage at maelstrom of sharp and stinging voices whose words carry salt – I will raise my voice and shout and scream with you.

Whatever the outcome of those legal proceedings this week, we who walk through the battle scarred land that is rape culture know only too well what we must each to do survive it. And however you need to negotiate that terrain, we will carry each other. In love, and hope and faith.

I believe you.

 

sozo-heart

She Was Not Yours to Take: Why Money Doesn’t Buy Ched Evans a Conscience

“Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.” George Washington

Conscience: The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct and motives, impelling one toward right actions – the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls and inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

I was not surprised to learn that Ched Evans case has been referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC, despite originally being refused appeal twice in the months after being convicted of rape at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012.

I wasn’t surprised because what Ched Evans has access to is money – a very great deal of it, care of his future Father-in-Law Karl Massey. He is also a pampered young man with an inexhaustible ability to play the victim. Like many spoiled and pampered young men with too little discipline, and access to too much money (and the power that provides), he is someone who, thanks to Massey, can afford to buy expensive legal muscle and flex it to the fullest possible extent.

Leaving aside (for the moment) any discussion about consent within a legal context in this case, (and the appeal must be allowed to run its course) what we know about Evans behaviour that night is this:

  • Somewhere around 4am on the night of the rape, Clayton McDonald sent Evans a text to tell him “I’ve got a bird.”
  • After receiving the text, Evans and two friends went to the Premier Inn where McDonald and the victim were.
  • Evans approached the reception desk and obtained a room key after lying that he had booked the room for a friend who no longer needed it.
  • Evans friends stayed outside the hotel, looked through the bedroom window and filmed part of what happened.
  • Evans entered the room. I will not describe what occurred but at the time of writing this, Evans remains a convicted rapist.
  • Evans left the hotel via the emergency exit.

When Evans made his public statement  – following the remorseless hounding of his victim by supporters he tried to distance himself from – he framed this behaviour as infidelity. And yet nothing about his behaviour that night suggests that this was a man who believed himself to be conducting an ‘affair’, and whether it was behaviour that reflected a reasonable belief in consent will now, once again, be a matter for the Court of Appeal.

But his actions that night – and since – suggests a man who is happy to indulge in behaviour which at best can only be described as sleazy. Consider: at no time has Evans ever, in any way – either explicitly or implicitly – addressed the presence of his two friends that night who filmed either McDonald and/or Evans and the victim. There is no suggestion that she was ever made aware of that at the time, far less given the opportunity to agree to it.

Further: Evans has not at any time stated that his belief that he had consent was based on any form of communication – verbally or otherwise – from the victim. Therefore is the only communication, on which Evans bases his claim, the text sent to him by McDonald? A text from your mate that says ‘he’s got a bird’ is not consent from the victim.  Is it unreasonable to infer then that Evans believed that his friend had procured a woman for him, and that’s this was what he understand the text to mean?

And moreover: Despite claiming to be ‘sorry’ for the appalling impact of the events, and the brutal hunting of his victim, he has apparently done nothing to change the horrific way in which his ‘campaign’ website has determinedly sought to criminalise and undermine a young woman who has been robbed of her identity, her life and her family – and her dignity and peace of mind.

So far, the privilege Evans had as a footballer and the access to wealth and influence that obtained has bought Evans many things.  It has so far failed to by him a conscience.

 ****

Amendment:

“…Evans has not at any time stated that his belief that he had consent was based on any form of communication – verbally or otherwise – from the victim.”

I had spent more time on the ‘front sheet’ copy of the appeal transcript than on the full copy: Evans does, in fact, claim verbal consent from his victim, at the time of him entering the hotel room. And the timing of this is important because this raises further questions, which are deeply troubling.

There is still no indication that the victim gave consent to McDonald to send the text that brought Evans to that hotel room. So at the point at which Evans entered that hotel room, the victim was in the most vulnerable possible position: she is very likely incapacitated (and one jury and 2 appeal courts have decided that she was incapable of giving consent due to intoxication) – and she is in a room, naked, with 2 physically strong men. Even if she hadn’t been incapacitated through drink, she was in an immensely vulnerable position and I would consider it highly questionable that she would have had “..the freedom and capacity..” to make the choice to say no with any certainty of her safety.

So, just to recap: At the time of writing this, Ched Evans remains a convicted rapist.

Dear BBC: Nick Conrad Perpetuated Rape Culture. You Can’t ‘Minimize’ That. (CN/TW)

This post references comments made about rape and rape victims which attach blame to victims and perpetuate rape culture. Self care is crucial, so this post carries both a content note and trigger warning. 

 

Six months ago, BBC Radio Norfolk presenter made comments with regard to the debate around Ched Evan’s attempted return to professional football which – justifiably – caused serious controversy. Complaints were filed, and the matter was investigated was investigated by Ofcom.

Ofcom have announced the results of that investigation: they have concluded that the comments were ‘offensive’ and ‘not justified by the context of the show’ but that the BBC had ‘minimized’ the offense.

And as far as they are concerned, that’s that.

Except its not, because the on-air apology that Nick Conrad made later about his comments clearly indicated that he both failed to grasp the extent to which his remarks blame victims of rape and assault, and that his remarks (which were made to a large regional audience) treated myths about rape as fact and, therefore, were an expression of rape culture.

It’s important to break down the ways in which Conrad’s comments reflected ignorance about what rape is, validated rape culture and blamed rape victims. It is equally important to remember that this is in the context of discussing a convicted rapist whose victim was entirely unable to give consent (hence rape) and who – since the initial conviction and Evan’s release on license – has had to come under police protection, being given secret one secret identity after another to try and protect her from those who have sought to hunt her down on Evans behalf.

He opened with this:

“I think women need to be more aware of a man’s sexual desire that when you’re in that position that you are about to engage in sexual activity there’s a huge amount of energy in the male body, there’s a huge amount of will and intent, and it’s very difficult for many men to say no when they are whipped up into a bit of a storm. And it’s the old adage about if you yank a dog’s tail then don’t be surprised when it bites you..”

In the first instance, Conrad assumes that the basis of rape is sex. It’s not. Rape is an act of aggression and domination: it is an abuse of power, that occurs when a choice is made by the man to initiate and continue to assault the victim when no consent has been given, or has been withdrawn.

All men are perfectly capable of self control: they are under no compulsion at any stage to initiate or continue with any sexual act at any stage. Because lets face it, if it were simply about a sexual urge, a quick flogging of the bishop would suffice.

This is an issue of consent, which Conrad is clearly confused about. He might find it helpful to read this, which may make it clearer for him.

These comments also play into the old trope of a woman being a ‘prick tease’ – a woman dressing for attention but ‘not prepared to see it through’, for example. In fact the clothes that a victim is wearing has little or nothing to do with the act of rape, and given the context of the discussion – and the nightmare that Evans victim has endured – this makes such comments particularly revolting.

“One wonders if women need to be a little bit more mindful of that and the feminists who have hijacked… Hijacked maybe a bit of a strong word..jump on these arguments and appear to be quite anti-men. (They) Neglect that very important part of the argument, even though it’s a reduced part of the argument and the onus has to be on the men and the men have to be condemned if a woman says no and they persist then that’s absolutely abhorrent…”

“…if you tease, if you jump into bed naked with a man if you give him all the signals and then he acts upon them then you are partially responsible and of course it is a grey area and there will be cases where you wanted to go certain distance and not go any further and the man is absolutely wrong but if..”

This gets to the heart of the biggest issue in these conversations: those who, having no understanding of what consent is and being unaware of their own overwhelming sense of entitlement, assume that women – (and that means all women, not just those who are cis gender) – revoke any right to decide what happens with our own bodies because of the clothes worn, or the alcohol consumed.

And that’s rape culture.

We want to be able to say ‘no’ without fear: we want to be able to say ‘no’, and not be frightened that our bodies will still be taken and used without reference to our own decisions, or that someone won’t take advantage when the ability to choose and make decisions has been clouded for whatever reason.

And that is how it should be.

This is something that mostly men (Conrad included) seem to struggle with; that when it comes to rape and assault – the onus is always with the rapist. It really is: there is no ‘grey’ area here, no ‘blurred’ lines: once consent has been withdrawn, if consent has not clearly been given, where consent has been refused – that’s it. Access Denied. End of Story. There are no ‘if’s’.

Conrad is a BBC presenter, and his audience may not be national, but it is a large one: since the problem is one of his understanding about consent, about his understanding of a woman’s right to autonomy over her body, about the tropes he used to belittle women in general, what is required is a recognition from Conrad directly that his words did blame victims: stating after the event that victims ‘are in no way to blame’ does nothing to address just how profoundly he stated otherwise during the course of that broadcast.

What is required is a full recognition by Conrad that he engaged in victim blaming, and presented views that were the very essence of rape culture.

Stating that the presence of a representative from End Violence Against Women helped to ‘minimize the offence’ is exactly the same thing as passing the buck, and letting Conrad off the hook, and expecting women to once again clear up the mess left by a man.

And it would be nice if, just once, the BBC were prepared to take some responsibility for this sort of thing.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

An Second Open Letter to Ched Evans – If You Are Innocent Then You Will Take Down Your Website.

Dear Ched Evans

The Mail on Sunday today carries an interview with the father of the woman you raped today, and it is heart breaking to read.

He talks about the terrible toll being exacted on your victim: about how your fans incessantly hunt her down, how she has had to move house 5 times in 3 years, change her identity repeatedly, endure Christmas without her family and friends and cope with what he refers to as trial by website’.

Ched Evans is able to lead a normal life. He has never apologised to my daughter. Instead, his website proclaims his innocence and draws attention to my daughter every day that it remains posted on the net. I think it should be taken down.’ (Emphasis mine).

I have said it before, and now I am going to make a direct request: your website feeds your ‘fans’ and supporters and acts to aid and abet them in their hounding and harassment of the woman you raped. Protesting your innocence is one thing – allowing your victim to be treated in such a shoddy and disgusting manner is quite another.

I understand from the article in the Mail on Sunday today that your victims father wrote to Attorney General about the footage on your ‘campaign’ website, which is being investigated at the moment. There is clearly, and now unarguably, a direct correlation between this disgusting harassment of your rape victim by your fans, and that website. Like packs of wild dogs they feed off it as they would a carcass, then unleash themselves on that  poor girl, rabid in their conviction of what they perceive to be her ‘criminality’.

The psychological and emotional trauma on her must be unbearable, and it has to stop – now.

If you truly believe you are innocent then you would not need such ‘support’ because you would recognise that these bully boy ‘fans’ are in fact making you look more guilty by the day. And nobody who was truly innocent would want that type of support.

If you truly believe you are innocent then you would recognise that the decent, honourable and just thing would be to take down that website, to ask that wealthy Father-in-Law of yours to do that immediately and then, at the very least, issue an apology to that young woman for the unjust bullying and harassment she has had to endure.

If you truly believe you are innocent, you would do those things without hesitation.

Take down that website Mr Evans. It is the right thing to do.

Sincerely

Ali Wilkin

 

BBC Norfolk’s Nick Conrad Thinks He’s A Slave to His Penis and Blames Victims on #ChedEvans Discussion

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Nick Conrad of BBC Radio Norfolk

“I’ve got to be so careful of what I say, I don’t want this to be explosive…” 

As if enough idiocy and nonsense hadn’t been spoken already in relation to consent, rape culture and the whole sorry mess that is the Ched Evans saga – enter BBC Norfolk’s own Nick Conrad, proving that not only is victim blaming alive and well, but that allowing men to think that they are incapable of self control and slaves to their penises is a toxic combination when talking about the causes of rape.

The full quote can be viewed here, and believe me it is not pretty: every possible trope, every imaginable victim blaming cliché is trotted out, from the hoary old ‘prick tease’ myth to the ‘men are slaves to their desires’. The thinking is incredibly reductive, the level of victim blaming simply incredible.

Mr Conrad needs to spend some time with domestic violence and rape charities learning exactly why he is both capable of self-control, and why a woman is never ever to blame for rape.

You are not a slave to your penis Mr Conrad.

An Open Letter to Ched Evans about your ‘Supporters’.

Dear Ched Evans:

It has been another week on social media of women being threatened with rape; another week of not being able to challenge the rape culture, of not being able to speak freely, without being verbally abused.  Supposed Sheffield United (TW) fans continue to use vile words to undermine any woman who dares speak out against rape.

Two weeks ago, the father of your victim had to speak out because your video plea to be allowed to ‘get on with your life’ and play football, along with the continued harassment of his daughter via social media which led to requiring to take on yet another identity, is having a devastating emotional impact on her. He is frightened for her, worried that she won’t get through this.

But still your supporters come at her.

We know (how could we not) that you claim to be innocent, that you claim that your victim consented – although you certainly never asked her if she wanted to have sex, or of she wanted to be filmed, and she was certainly in no position to answer the question even if you had.  Yet despite all your claims of innocence, you have stood silently by whilst your supporters have engaged in abusive, threatening behaviour, against your victim and a raft of women who have exercised their own right to free speech and dared to challenge such behaviour.

Even if you genuinely believe you are innocent, that is no longer the point: you have your family, a support group, solicitors, lawyers, private detectives and a future father-in-law bankrolling a campaign that has its own website.

What does your victim have? She had to be taken away from her family, her friends, her home town: she can no longer live under her own name: your campaign seems determined to grind her further down, perhaps in the hopes that she will break completely.

You want to get on with your life, you say, but you seem to want to do that at the expense of your victim. All that abuse, all that harassment from your fans: well, when you have such well oiled, well funded campaign machine, your silence about what your fans do makes you look like a bully – the worst kind of bully: the one that is behind the scenes getting other people to do his dirty work for him.

And every bully should be told to stop. Especially the ones pulling strings behind the scenes, especially the ones who stay silent whilst others do the bullying on his behalf.

In the context of what has – and is being done – to you victim, your pleas to be rehabilitated ring hollow; the site of your sorrowful face as you plead for another chance acts only to belittle the woman you raped and continue to victimise, through your campaign and your fans. Yes, a petition was launched against you: but what did you expect? That people would simply keep quiet in the face of all of that, and turn the other way whilst you continued on without a seeming care for any of that?

Whatever the outcome of your latest appeal, and whether or not Sheffield United decide to re-sign you: stop this.  Remember that your sentence is not yet done.

If you are serious about rehabilitation, about making amends, about taking responsibility and earning another chance – close the website, or ask those who fund it and run it to do so. Tell your supporters and fans to leave the victim alone. Tell your fans to stop threatening women just because they don’t like what we say.

If you have any shred of decency in you: put an end to it, now.

Sincerely,

ali

Update 21/12/2014: Hartlepool United’s new manager – Ronnie Moore – has expressed interest in signing Ched Evans, thereby unleashing fresh headlines and speculation which will undoubtedly cause further pain to the woman Ched Evans raped.  This is, simply, cruelty, justified by those who – like Moore – care only about the goals Evans might score, than any pain caused to his victim (and indeed, many rape victims who find these discussions, headlines and speculations immensely distressing).

So I posting this open letter again, and I would like to thank everyone who has shared this previously. Sometimes the only option is to stand up to the bully.

 

Dear Michael Portillo: A Challenge to Rape Myths Is Not A Challenge to Free Speech

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”  George Orwell

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Freedom of speech – that is, the right to express an opinion without restraint, or fear of being censored – is something which people value. The fundamental ability to be able to give voice to our individuality, to speak what we think without fear of sanctions, intimidation or threats of violence, and express beliefs however unpopular, is something we all prize.

Given that this is a right that white cis-gendered men have little problem accessing here in the West, and a right that they have indeed taken for granted, the irony of a privileged white man voicing concerns that freedom of speech is under attack because some women have called out a rape myth is.. well, really very unedifying .  As trans* and cis gendered women on the internet know only too well, being able to speak without fear of being targeted by people who have no problem threatening them physically and sexually, and abusing them on the grounds of gender, race and sexuality is still a right which has yet to be acknowledged – let alone accorded.

It was with some degree of self-restraint therefore, that I failed to throw a heavy object through my television last night when Michael Portillo expressed his concern that the BBC had issued an apology in the wake of remarks by Michael Buerke, prior to the transmission of the Moral Maze on Wednesday evening, which discussed whether or not Ched Evans – the convicted rapist who once played football for Sheffield United – should be allowed to return to professional football.  Portillo, it should be noted (who is not on Twitter and probably not aware of the value, worth and effectiveness of online activism), was also on that Moral Maze programme, and his position could be fairly described as being in favour of Ched Evans returning to football.

However it is specifically his remarks at the start of last nights ‘This Week’ programme – on which he is a weekly panellist – that I am addressing.

Essentially Portillo felt that the ‘twittersphere’ (who by implication are some sort of nameless mob) had levered an apology by itimidation from the BBC for Michael Buerke’s remarks, that this was an issue of free speech which the BBC had a duty to preserve, and that these storms of protest acted to limit what people could say.[Note: Once it is available on iPlayer again (for some reason it is currently not available), you will be able to listen to what he says, but I think that what I have given here is a fair summation.]

First – and foremost – the reason that Michael Buerke’s comments caused such upset and were rightly challenged both by individuals and groups such as Rape Crisis and Ending Victimisation and Blame, was because they are well worn, and highly damaging, rape myths which effectively lay the blame for the rape on the behaviour of the victim. In the context of the way in which victims of rape generally – and the woman raped by Ched Evans specifically in this particular instance – face condemnation and judgement because of those myths, challenging comments which were at best insensitive was the right thing to do.

In the context of the torrent of abuse and harassment which family and supporters of Evans have metered out to Evans victim – a woman who may have to change her identity for a second time – this was in no sense an issue of free speech.

Rape silences its victims every day. I would therefore ask Michael Portillo if genuinely believes that there is a ‘right’ to speak an opinion which enables a culture to silence victims of rape? Is he aware that [CN] those who claim to believe in free speech [TW/CN] refuse to accept that rape myths are just that, and do not recognise or understand the damage they do?

In order to live in a world where everyone can be safe and free, and individuals free to speak, there are times where we must understand where our priorities lay – and we must not be afraid to stand by those priorities. The BBC were right to issue an apology.