Ched Evans conviction: the vitriol after the verdict

// 22 April 2012

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A photograph of a Feminist Art Workers conceptual performance in 1978. It is a photograph of a group of women under a large billboard which reads, This is a guest post by Julian Norman. Julian is a London-based lawyer and feminist and blogs as London Feminist in her spare time. She is a member of the London Feminist Network and a founder member of the UK Legal Feminist Group.

Rape culture. It’s alive, well, and lurking in the bushes down a dark alleyway near you. In fact, closer: you might find it within your free newspaper, clogging up your twitter feed, or even lurking in the dark crevices of your own mind.

Rape culture is the name we give to an outlook which excuses, tolerates, or even condones sexual violence. For a thoroughly comprehensive definition, you can’t do better than Shakesville. And that is exactly what we’ve just seen in the response to the jailing of footballer Ched Evans for the rape of a nineteen year old woman.

I don’t know what happened on the night that Ched Evans decided to rape a drunk teenager. What I do know is that a jury which heard all the evidence accepted that he did so. Juries do not convict on a whim; prosecutors would say they can be frustratingly cautious to do so.

The topic began to trend on Twitter and the level of vitriol aimed at the victim was unbelievable. I Storified some of the tweets, and Little Tweets of Misogyny documented others (Trigger Warning).

There were tweets claiming that the woman was promiscuous and had slept with other people. That if she was so drunk, how do we know she didn’t consent? That she was a money-grabbing publicity-seeking bitch out to wreck a man’s life. Evans’ friend Connor Brown took to the net to call the victim a “money grabbing tramp“, adding

“If ur a slag ur a slag don’t try get money from being a slag (sic) … Stupid girls… I feel sick.”

This is rape culture. A culture in which a convicted rapist is described as “that poor man” and his imprisonment attracts sympathy, while the victim is treated as though her rape was her own fault, or, weirdly, as though she had orchestrated the attack on her for some supposed benefit.

Equally concerning were the men who apparently admitted rape.

“There’s some birds in this pub who would defo get the #ChedEvans treatment”

sniggered one, ten minutes to closing time. And astonishingly from Albert Farnsworth IV

“If nailing a tramp who is too wankered to say no is a crime….. then the old bill need to get down to mine with a set of cuffs. #ChedEvans.”

Twitter is not a closed medium. If someone admitted to terrorism offences on Twitter, the Belmarsh doors would clang before you could say “joke!” but admitting to rape? Just banter.

Rape or attempted rape happens to (roughly) one in four women and (roughly) one in thirty three men. This has happened to someone you know – and yet it’s acceptable to propagate the view that victims are somehow to blame whereas rapists just made a slip-up, no more blameworthy than a spelling error: a typo of the penis, if you will.

Part of it is plain old-fashioned misogyny. Part of it can be found in a hypersexualised masculinity which dictates that “real” men are permanently, gaggingly up for it and that it is for the woman to keep her virtue intact. Part of it is that the rape culture can be something of a false safety blanket for women: if there are Things We Can Do to not-get-raped then we’re immune. As long as we remember to keep our keys held in our fists and avoid empty tube carriages then we’re safe and can conveniently ignore the fact that we’re far more likely to be attacked by an acquaintance in our own homes. The women on Twitter who are busy castigating the victim in this case for being a drunk, a slut, a bitch? They are naïvely clinging to a fiction which will desert them if they ever happen to meet a rapist.

It’s a vicious circle. Few attacks are reported; of those that are, only 6% end in conviction (although as Amanda Bancroft has pointed out, that rises to a more promising 58% for those which are charged). And that is because in deciding which cases to charge, the CPS must assess the prospects of success within the society we live in, not the one we would like.

It shouldn’t need saying, but it is irrelevant whether a woman has previously had consensual sex with other people. Enthusiastic consent freely given to one man does not entitle every other man in the world to sex with that person. It is irrelevant whether she said no or was merely too drunk to say no. Consent is a meaningful yes, not an inability to refuse. It is irrelevant whether she usually spends her weekends getting outside a litre of vodka Red Bull and dancing, or whether she spends them in cloistered solitude engaged in contemplative prayer. If there is no consent, then that is rape.

It shouldn’t need saying, but clearly it does. This case has been a graphic illustration of that.

[The image is a photograph of a Feminist Art Workers conceptual performance in 1978. It is a photograph of a group of women under a large billboard which reads, “RAPE: is everybody’s concern”. FAW are Nancy Angelo, Cheri Gaulke, Vanalyne Green, Laurel Klick. It was taken by Cheri Gaulke and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Comments From You

Douche,BagandShoes // Posted 22 April 2012 at 4:03 pm

Fantastic, thorough response.

‘It shouldn’t need saying, but it is irrelevant whether a woman has previously had consensual sex with other people. Enthusiastic consent freely given to one man does not entitle every other man in the world to sex with that person…’

..And it is irrelevant whether a woman has previously had consensual sex with that same person. Enthusiastic consent freely given to that man can also be withdrawn at any time and does not entitle that man to continue having sex with that person…’

Kat // Posted 22 April 2012 at 4:15 pm

Brilliant, brilliant piece. For those looking for a ‘101’ on consent, Scarleteen has the best that I can find on the web:

Jon BG // Posted 22 April 2012 at 6:30 pm

I don’t really want to comment on ‘rape culture’ whatever that is, but I certainly wouldn’t endorse the outing of a victim outside of the law. But aside from the pro-Evans illegal tweets, the usual twitter hysteria from those condemning Evans and his supporters, is turning from witch hunt mentality into the very same abuse of Evans’ family who, rightly, are pursuing an appeal, as is their right.

Of course they, having been party to ALL aspects of the trial, unlike Julian Norman or anyone here, or on twitter, abusive or otherwise, clearly believe a miscarriage has occurred especially in relation to the jury’s interpretation of the judge’s direction.

This case has been appallingly reported, and there may be reasons for this, but while the judge directed the jury to differentiate between a case of immoral behaviour and criminal behaviour, they seem, according to the defendants’ brief, to have misunderstood this direction completely, and found one of the accused guilty and not the other. The issue of stereotypes is now central to direction over intoxication in rape cases such as these, and here the stereotype of the immoral footballer is arguably even more loaded than that of the drunken gold digger/victim.

Juries are no longer solely directed to establish beyond reasonable doubt, more, the phrase ‘are you sure’? Is advised. This is absurd in my view as it introduces an element of opinion over fact. I don’t expect this to be a popular view here, but, in the interests of justice, especially with regard to rape cases, I hope there is a retrial. As for those tweets posted here, well some may indeed have their collars felt, but that’s twitter. Some people will never learn.

womanistmusings // Posted 22 April 2012 at 6:32 pm

This piece struck such a chord with me. My dear friend was raped two years ago and it finally went to trial with her rapist pleading guilty to simple assault. She was drunk and there were no physical bruises so they simply reduced it to he said/she said. The standards by which a woman can be perceived as a victim are so very narrow it is ridiculous. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life and he essentially got a walk because her case came outside of the stranger rape that the media likes to publicize as representative of rape.

Shadow // Posted 22 April 2012 at 8:25 pm

‘A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports (male) violence against women. It is a society where (male) violence is seen as sexy and (male sexual dominance over women as sexuality) sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened (male) violence that ranges from sexual remarks to (male instigated) sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones (mens’) physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.’

This is an extract from Shakespeare’s article on Rape Culture and brackets are my amendments because make no mistake it is men who are the ones condoning; justifying; excusing male accountability – not women.

The misogynists who rushed to their Twitter sites in order to swiftly demonise and blame yet another female victim of men’s deliberate and sustained male sexual violence are probably feeling very proud of their misogynistic blatant male hatred and male contempt for women. No need for radical feminists to try and tell women this is what men really think about women because these men condemn themselves by their support for male sexual violence against women and for inciting male hatred and male contempt for women.

Compare this court case with the case concerning that well known male footballer who suffered a heart attack whilst playing a professional football match. Males rushed to access their twitter accounts in order not to be left out adding their voices of support and sympathy to a male who happened to have suffered a heart attack. One young man chose to use social networking sites in a vain attempt to appear ‘clever’ by insulting the male footballer and immediately men en masse including well known male celebrities all swiftly publicly declared they did not condone this young man’s verbal contempt for the non-white male footballer. Male Supremacist Legal System swiftly charged this young man with promoting racism and he was convicted. There was no en masse male protest actions demanding this man have his conviction overturned or even male claims ‘he is innocent because he merely engaged in male banter!’ Men knew they were risking being labelled ‘racist’ if they challenged this conviction but when one male is convicted of rape what happens? Why men become hysterical and hurl sexualised insults against women and girls because how dare a man – yes a man be convicted of doing what he is entitled to commit and that is to rape – sorry gain sexual access to a female and use her as a masturbatory aid because men have the inviolate right of raping – sorry should read have sexual access to any female they wish since women and girls only exist to service men’s sexual demands!

Because women unlike the non-white male footballer and all males, are non-human and of no value whatsoever to male supremacist system and culture. Apart that is from being males’ disposable sexual service stations and/or serving men’s pseudo demands/needs. Our sole reason for existing is to serve men 24/7.

Rape is never rape according to the male rapists because their denials/excuses/minimalisations etc. are always accepted as ‘truths’ whereas women’s lived experiences of systemic male sexual violence is dismissed as the ‘ravings of hysterical females!’ Male bystanders too support our rape culture because these men believe the lies male rapists claim and of course the only real rapes are those which are committed by those unknown beings (men) against other males. Real rape is when it happens to males never to females and not forgetting real rape happens predominantly to males never to females. Rape is never rape according to male supremacist system when a male forces a female to submit to his sexual demands, because he is merely enacting his (pseudo) male sex right to women and girls.

We women have never been accorded our fundamental right of ownership of our bodies and our sexuality is not ours but only exists for men to access as and when they wish.

Why there are no laws making it a criminal offence for men to engage in promotion of women hating whereas there are laws criminalising racism and homophobia both of which are still dominantly viewed as only happening to males and as we know if men are negatively affected then the issue is ‘real.’ That is why these men tweeted their male hatred/male contempt for women because men are terrified that one day just perhaps finally women might be accorded real justice and the male rapists and their male apologists will no longer be able to commit/condone male sexual violence against women with impunity.

Finally – missing from all the intense male hatred and male contempt for women is the fact this young woman is a human being not a disposable sexualised commodity which men can use/abuse and then throw away. The after affects this young woman will have to suffer because two callous young men saw her as a ‘a dehumanised sexualised commodity they could subject to male sexual violence’ will not disappear and no ‘she will not get over it and move on.’

Post Traumatic stress is real and yes PTDS does affect many women and girls who have been subjected to male sexual violence but that can be dismissed because we should only focus on the real victims. Men such as those two male rapists and the innumerable male soldiers injured in Afghanistan. These men are the heroes apparently – despite fact male rapists choose to attack females and male soldiers are not forced to enter the military.

Women, however, have no choice – we cannot remove ourselves from the presence of males because we have to work outside that so-called ‘family unit’ and navigate the public sphere which men continue to define and declare as male only spaces and only grudgingly accord us access but with the proviso they can always sexually harass us/threaten us with male sexual violence and even commit said male violence against us women with impunity. Neither is the so-called ‘family unit’ a safe haven from the dangerous masculine world for women and girls because men too can and do commit sexual violence against us females within the home. But Male Supremacist Legal System declares women’s lived experiences of systemic male sexual violence within the home are ‘lies’ because women and children are all supposedly inherent liars!

On no account must males be denied their pseudo sex right to women and girls and male supremacy supported by malestream media has been very successful at promoting these lies and demonising any woman or girl who very courageously dares to hold a male(s) accountable and responsible for his crimes committed against her. Make no mistake men do hate us women and those women-hating tweets are evidence men now believe rightly, they can subject us women to intense male hatred; dehumanise us with impunity because unlike men we are not human!

Bob Hodson // Posted 22 April 2012 at 8:28 pm

Brilliant article. Hit the nail on the head with regards to the sentiment that exists throughout Britain. Heard some horrendous opinions this weekend and need more articles like this to circulate to challenge them (I know – it shouldn’t even be a debate, but it is).

Holly Combe // Posted 22 April 2012 at 11:41 pm

Excellent post. It’s hard to pick out the part that most resonates but I think this has to be the message that I imagine flashing up on the computer screen every time another slut-shaming justiceforched tweet goes out:

It is irrelevant whether she usually spends her weekends getting outside a litre of vodka Red Bull and dancing, or whether she spends them in cloistered solitude engaged in contemplative prayer. If there is no consent, then that is rape.

I have to admit I sometimes balk at the term “rape culture” because it seems to immediately imply a starkly open celebration of rape in society that allows detractors to scoff, rather than the insidious and often sly apologism it actually describes. However, as some of the recent tweets demonstrate, it seems “open celebration” is often no exaggeration. (As I check the feed, there are plenty of people calling that crap out so that’s something.)

@Shadow. I see your point about the position of men in the Shakesville quote (I think this is what you were referring to?) but I disagree that it’s just men doing the condoning. Victim-blaming and, indeed, patriarchal values are perpetuated by lots of people, regardless of their own genders. While I think it’s important not to pander to misogynists and turn the fact that some women take part into the main issue, I think it’s unhelpful to ignore it.

I also find this statement problematic:

“Because women unlike the non-white male footballer and all males, are non-human and of no value whatsoever to male supremacist system and culture.”

I appreciate you are possibly using the racist Twitter incident as a benchmark for how seriously misogyny should be taken but implying resentment over the support Fabrice Muamba received and then underscoring his “non-whiteness” seems to me to be in rather bad taste. Let’s not engage in oppression Olympics here.

lil1 // Posted 23 April 2012 at 2:51 am

Thank goodness for responses to incidences like these or I would go mad.

Gender hatred IS a crime. Why is this not recognised? Why is there no retribution?

Rose // Posted 23 April 2012 at 11:05 am

I saw this story on the BBC news yesterday – it made me really angry. Not least with the BBC lamenting the damage that the guy had done to his career. He’s a rapist. He should not be put forward as a rolemodel (as footballers tend to be), he is going to jail for damaging someone elses life. The damage being done to his life is part of the justice system.

It’s not sad that he’s damaged his career, it’s sad that he abused someone disgustingly, and damaged their quality of life/interpersonal relationships/ self-esteem, etc. (from the average case), and caused their to be a hate campaign against her. Why the sympathy?

I agree whole heartedly with the post, and find it symptomatic of the society in which we live that crimes against women are so diregarded. It reminded me of a Lucy Stone quote (1855), – though admittedly about wife rape*,

“It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property, ect., if I may not keep my body, and it’s uses, in my absolute right. Not one wife in a thousand can do that now.”

*At the time, and indeed for another 135 years since, a married womans body was her husbands sexual property – it seems to me that now that womens sexuality is more liberated, more men claim short term ownership of aquaintances bodies. The view that if he is not defiling another mans property, it is his to defile. I did not recognise this as an undercurrent in English culture, until I returned from 6 months in India, where such views are more opening admitted to. I was disappointed, but not really surprised.

JJ Jenneson // Posted 23 April 2012 at 11:40 am

What a super duper article. I mean I am sure these women haters would have a completly different tune if it was there mother, sister, wife or daughter was raped. I am shocked and disgusted the vile comments on some twitter feeds.

JJ Jenneson // Posted 23 April 2012 at 12:42 pm

I can not believe that Ched Evans has been made player of the year by PFA league one. It is not like he can collect his award. I am very disappointed by this. Why has the club not made a proper statement. However I understand that Conner Brown who made distasteful comments via twitter regarding the rape victim will be investigated by Sheffield United club

Julian // Posted 23 April 2012 at 3:13 pm

@JonBG – first, I have seen no abuse of Evans’ family on Twitter. I’ve seen quite a lot of abuse of him, but then again, he’s a convicted rapist. But I can’t see any evidence for the suggesting that his family have been subjected to a witch-hunt – and certainly nothing like the abuse and subsequent alleged outing of the victim.

Secondly, the family of a prisoner don’t have a right to appeal his conviction; he does. That someone’s family believes them innocent is not conclusive evidence of a miscarriage of justice.

Thirdly, as you rightly point out, we weren’t there. The jury, who were, acquitted one (this doesn’t necessarily mean that they were convinced consent had been given, it could mean that they were unable to find conclusively that it had not) and convicted the other. Juries do not convict on a whim. They are asked to be “certain so that you are sure” – which if anything is a higher test than “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.”

Finally, I don’t accept for a moment that the stereotype of the immoral footballer is more loaded than the stereotype of the “drunken gold digger” which you appear to have crossed with “victim.”

Julian // Posted 23 April 2012 at 3:16 pm

I’ve also been made aware that after I wrote this, some people took to Twitter to name the victim. The North Wales police are investigating this (it is a criminal offence to name someone who is protected by anonymity by the court) and I hope it’s taken seriously.

mace // Posted 23 April 2012 at 3:47 pm

Excellent article- and excellent comments. I read through some of the justiceforched tweets and was appalled by the comments- which demonstrated not only a total ignorance of the law which states that if there is no consent then that is rape, but a complete acceptance that someone unable to give consent is fair game and is even complicit in whatever happens. Like Holly, I’ve sometimes found the term ‘rape culture’ to be problematic but after seeing the tweets, I find it impossible to deny that it exists, although I was also heartened by the reponse calling out the justiceforched tweeters.

Clodia // Posted 23 April 2012 at 11:10 pm

Superb post which does sum up the “rape culture” which is no flight of imagination. As others have said, the woman’s sexual history, state of inebriation, dress or social habits are totally irrelevant: if she did not consent, then it’s rape and it’s a crime.

No wonder some women don’t report rape when this victim blaming popular culture prevails…it makes me despair sometimes.

Vicki // Posted 24 April 2012 at 11:36 am

I totally agree with Shadow … and having been both raped twice before I was 16 and beaten by two previous partners and shamed for the assaults by members of my own family, I would say rape culture is actually just part of the system of institutionalised hatred and undermining of equal human rights by male culture. Whatever male media you look in, whether it be lads mags, on line porn or TV football programmes, male hatred of women is in your face. We are refered to as sluts and bitches, and worse, our basic human rights are regarded with absolute contempt and we are portrayed as sexualised beasts of burden rather than human beings. This is a living, breathing suppression of human equality that is being denied by the authorities who are complicit in protecting the forces of oppression because they are allied with them – none of the men want to be kicked out of the boys club.

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