Written by BWV Reporter Amy Cox.
I have a sister, she is 20 years old and the other day when we were on the phone she told me about how she’d gone out the night before and drank too much. Upon hearing that Ched Evans had been acquitted of rape I couldn’t help but think back to the last conversation I’d had with my sister. In that moment I thought of her on a night out, and I could no longer see her as an independent, fun loving young person, but as someone who could be vulnerable to the advances of a predatory young man existing within a culture that not only legitimizes the sexual abuse of women, but goes above and beyond to humiliate and degrade its victims.
Let’s be clear, an appeals court has found Evans innocent but the tactics deployed to secure that verdict cast a dark shadow over the Justice System and certainly over the verdict itself. Calling on two of the victim’s previous sexual partners opened up her sexual life to a degree of scrutiny which is almost always disallowed in cases of this nature, and rightly so. Sorry, I was unaware that one of the criteria for being a victim of rape was to have a sexual history resembling that of an E.L James character (before the Billionaire spanking sessions and SNM predilections). A judge and jury must objectively decide that they don’t find your previous sexual history distasteful and that you have never acted in a sexually “questionable” manner, all of which are entirely subjective and in no way relevant to whether or not you could ever be a victim of rape.
The use of this form of “evidence” is deeply troubling and the implications for future women wanting to come forward could be severe. It presents yet another painful and humiliating hurdle they must jump on the road to justice, that’s even if it gets as far as court, which devastatingly, it barely ever does.
Another aspect of this which has left me and others feeling furious at the whole Evans spectacle has been the response post-verdict. Within hours of Evan’s innocence being proclaimed social media was alight with his supporters rejoicing at his freedom and vehemently calling for the woman who accused him to “pay”. I find reading some of the comments deeply disturbing, one person commented that if a girl goes back to a hotel room with a guy what does she expect, what indeed? Surely she can’t expect to be raped and left naked, disorientated and alone and then upon coming forward be treated with any semblance of sympathy and respect…Of course not, she’d been drinking, she went back willingly and she appears to have committed the mortal sin of having previous sexual partners.
Comments and beliefs of this nature are a startling reminder that misogyny is not something of the past that Germaine Greer and the gang burned along with their bras never to rear its ugly head again. The reality is misogyny has never left us, it continues to pervade our society and the Evan’s case is just one of the many moments which reinforce its potency within our culture.
A comment made by Evan’s during police questioning continues to play over in my mind, he said; “footballers are rich…and that is what girls want”. This confident proclamation about what women want doesn’t stray too far from a statement once made by Presidential hopeful Donald Trump; “when you’re a star they let you do it…you can do anything”. Callous assumptions about what women want and what is permissible to do to them speaks volumes of the self-entitlement felt by certain men when it comes to physical relations with women. In their minds we lose all depth and humanity, we become simple minded consumers always wanting and willing ourselves to be consumed by them. Every time a statement is made to this effect, sexual violence against women is made that bit more ok, and more victims are silenced and more perpetrators walk free.