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.

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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.

 

 

 

Emily Yoffe (@YoffeEmily): ‘It’s the perpertrator’s fault…except not.” (TW)

So today Emily Yoffe of Slate,(@YoffeEmily)  in the wake of Maryville and Stubenville and just in time for the new college terms, published a piece entitled “College Women. Stop Getting Drunk”.

Actually the headline sums up exactly the tone of the article, and it is one long classic rape myth trotted out, one after the other to prove Ms Yoffe’s central thesis: that the increase in young women binge drinking has created ‘a prey rich environment’.

Every trope is regurgitated: how often college women are assaulted, how drink is the ‘common denominator’ in all these assaults, how women out drinking are prey to predatory men  – and who she actually describes as ‘lions in a prey-rich environment’, an appalling illustration whereby the man is just behaving according to masculine stereotype, and women are at once both powerless prey and would also be able to control the ‘predatory behaviour’ if they were sober. If they don’t drink, the situation will be under control, of course… Drunk women, she says, ‘render themselves defenceless’.

Despite the disclaimer that ‘it’s the perpetrator’s fault’, Ms Yoffe is also particularly concerned that the bad and wicked feminism (which apparently gives women license to go out and behave in such un-lady like ways). It giving young women a ‘distorted message’: She quotes Anne Coughlin –   professor at the University of Virginia School of Law – who claims that women are being ‘infantilised’.

Beyond the shocking level of victim blaming – where everyone except the rapist bears the burden of responsibility for their actions – there is an irresponsible degree of conflating the problem of binge drinking and substance abuse and addiction with the insidious level of assault and rape that so plagues college and university campuses both in the US and the UK.

Worse is yet to come, as the level of disbelief she has for the victim is revealed – which is both nauseating and beyond irresponsible. It would seem that if you wrote to ‘Dear Prudence’ about being assaulted, she may not believe you.

“But when you are dealing with intoxication and sex, there are the built-in complications of incomplete memories and differing interpretations of intent and consent. To establish if a driver is too drunk to be behind the wheel, all it takes is a quick test to see if his or her blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit. There isn’t such clarity when it comes to alcohol and sex.”

My biggest concern (even given the above) is the 3 victims of rape she interviews – it seems incredibly clear that having picked up on the ‘common denominator’ of drink, this is where the focus of the interviews has been and I am genuinely concerned at the possible manipulation of these victims for the sake of a point about alcohol consumption amongst young people that Ms Yoffe clearly feels she needs to make.

I worry that these young women have been manipulated to prove Ms Yoffe’s central thesis; I am angry that Ms Yoffe continues to try and push a message that claims to be responsible yet places both the burden of responsibility on the victim and so loudly proclaims the age-old socialized message of ‘boys will be boys’; and I am horrified that she does this from the platform she has been given, with all the privilege she has.

 

CeCe: Punished for not being killed? (TW)

“I wont let the actions of hateful people detour or distract me. I will continue on my path to loving myself, and others. But most importantly, to continue in my pursuit of happiness.”

~ CeCe McDonald

“People are being killed out there, and CeCe is being punished for not being killed.”

~ Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality.

This is a story about a young woman who, along with her friends one evening, was attacked whilst enjoying an evening out. It is the story of victim blaming in extremis; of a young, bright, well-loved trans woman of colour who was very possibly victimized for being African-American LBGTQ.

First, a little context: in 2010, 44% of those murdered in LBGTQH related hate crimes (US) were trans women. In a country where 2% of the population are likely to find themselves jailed at some point in their life, 21% of trans women, and 47% trans women of colour report being arrested and incarcerated. As Rai’vyn Cross – a friend of CeCe’s – told Democracy Now on April 27th 2012, threats and harassment are a ‘day-to-day’ occurence.

It was certainly the case on 5th June 2011. CeCe, along with four friends (all of whom were African-American), were out in Minneapolis one evening and walking past Schooner Tavern. At least four white men outside the bar began shouting abuse at the friends. One of them – Dean Schmitz – called out “look at that boy dressed like a girl tucking her dick in.” CeCe and her friends were walking away, but Molly Flaherty smashed a glass in CeCe’s face, resulting in an injury that required 11 stitches. Fighting ensued as her friends tried to defend her, and although CeCe tried to walk away, Schmitz followed her. Feeling scared and threatened, CeCe took a pair of scissors from her bag and in the ensuing scuffle, Schmitz was stabbed in the chest and died from his wounds. A court transcript of the facts can be found here:

http://www.motherjones.com/documents/356409-mcdonald-chrishaun-11-16485-5-2-12-plea

Despite the injury to her face, and her insistence that the wounds inflicted on Schmitz were in self-defense – CeCe was arrested that night. No one else was arrested – none of the white men who shouted the transphobic, racist and anti-gay verbal abuse, and certainly not Molly Flaherty, who smashed CeCe in the face with a glass.

CeCe’s defense team, based at the Legal Rights Centre – http://www.legalrightscenter.org/News.html – had a number of problems to contend with.

  • They were unable to submit details of Dean Schmitz’s swastika tatoo*, or his previous criminal record
  • The judge ruled that defense could not provide expert witnesses to the every day violence experienced by transgendered people – despite the evidence of the racist and transphobic abuse that CeCe and her friends experienced.

*“At times he can be like that, yes…It depends on his mood, unfortunately,”

~ Charles Pelfrey, Schmitz’s brother

In fact, CeCe herself was no stranger to that violence – she had experienced this even at the hands of her own family, and you can read about that, in her own words, here: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/pursuit-of-happiness-3/  (Trigger Warning)

You can also read CeCe’s testimony during her trial here: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=1661

That CeCe and her friends were on the receiving end of a racist, transphobic attack is in little doubt.  It is possible that CeCe pled guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge because her legal team were unable to provide the evidence to prove that she was acting in self-defense when Schmitz was stabbed.  (Her legal team have pointed out the lesser charge to which she pled guilty is often given where the prosecution are aware of the more than a little culpability on the part of the person killed). She is serving out her sentence in the men’s facility at St Cloud MN., and that brings its own dangers and concerns.

A 2006 study (US) found that 59% of transgender prisoners reported being raped or sexually assaulted. For Alexis Giraldo, who was repeatedly raped whilst in Folsom State Prison in California, it’s simple:

“They are doing people wrong, and they are covering it up.”

http://inthesetimes.com/article/3372/transgendered_behind_bars/

There has not been a great deal of coverage of this case. However Mother Jones covered this in great detail and you can read that here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/05/cece-mcdonald-transgender-hate-crime-murder

It was also covered by the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KJOD_SYWKtI

You can also read the blog set up by CeCe’s supporters here: http://supportcece.wordpress.com

What CeCe is dealing with is not unusual for any trans woman of colour in the US – but it speaks of a system that not only systematically ‘others’ these women, but effectively and categorically blames them for the abuse they suffer. CeCe did not seek a fight – she actively tried to walk away from it. But in that moment that she felt her life was in danger, her decision to try to defend herself cost her dearly.  It certainly cost her liberty and freedom.