No, Ched Evans, women are not ‘putting themselves in danger’. People like you are

No, Ched Evans, women are not ‘putting themselves in danger’. People like you are

A piece by Kirstie Summers, volunteer with FiLiA

May 2017


In 2011 Ched Evans was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman. His football career made him important enough that this made the national newspapers.

On the night of the attack, the 19-year-old victim had been drinking but told police she felt “tipsy but not out of control”. She put her memory loss the next morning down to a spiked drink. She was seen crawling through the hallway of the hotel. She was met by footballer Clayton McDonald, who brought her back to his hotel room, where McDonald and Evans both had sex with her, with Evans later telling police that he did not ask for her consent. She did not say she had been raped, only that she had no recollection. The CPS charged both men with rape on their accounts, not hers.

Both men pleaded not guilty.

McDonald was acquitted. Evans was sentenced to five years in prison.

At a retrial in October 2016, he was found not guilty and released from prison, even though the jury accepted that his victim had been too drunk to consent.

Evans’s response to this, published in the Sunday Times, was: “If she genuinely doesn’t remember it doesn’t mean we raped her. It doesn’t mean she didn’t consent. It just means she doesn’t remember.”

Last week he was quoted all across the press about wanting to offer his advice about preventing rape. He advises that “women need to be made aware of the dangers they can put themselves in because there are genuine rapists out there who prey on girls who have been drinking”. 

Evans doesn’t go into detail about what those predators might be like but maintains that his actions do not align with his definition of a rapist.

He told the Times that “a lot of work needs to be done in relation to consent, because I definitely think that the police have an agenda to find ways to charge people, and the easiest one is the drunk one”.

If nothing else, this shows a profound lack of knowledge of how seriously rape cases are taken, as the rate of rape convictions was only 7.5% in 2016, down from a still pitiful 11% in 2012.

This complete misunderstanding of rape is a miserably common belief in contemporary culture: the rapist is imagined as a mysterious, shadowy figure lurking in the shadows rather than the very ordinary men, brothers, husbands and sons that they are. Approximately 90% of rape victims know their perpetrator, yet a third of people still believe that “women who flirt” are at least partially responsible for being raped.

As long as this kind of backwards belief is still widely held, men will continue to assault women who are too drunk to consent or too afraid to refuse their advances and will continue to believe they have done nothing wrong. Worse still, they will continue to be given a free pass by the community around them.

This attitude is clear in Evans’s comments about teaching women not to drink, but not once does he mention teaching men not to rape.

In her book Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body, writer/comedian Sara Pascoe, who devoted a whole chapter to consent, summarises exactly how damaging this attitude is:

“I would argue that lurking underneath sex crimes is the enduring, subconscious belief that women’s bodies exist for male procreation and pleasure. That they are never really ours, despite what we’re told. And we are told nowadays – it's a huge part of feminism. We tell each other. My mother told me, as did books and magazines and teen television. Like a mantra: ‘My body is my own. MY genitals, MY reproductive rights and MY pleasure, all mine.’ But did anyone tell the boys? Were they repeating ‘their bodies, their genitals, their reproductive rights and their pleasure’ throughout their adolescence?”

Basically we can spend all the time in the world teaching women to protect themselves, but until we start teaching men not to rape, society will see little improvement in the number of rapes and sexual assaults committed.

To illustrate how little the football clubs cared about his conviction, Evans had a contract signed with Chesterfield FC months before he was released from prison. It was reported as a blow because he was only earning £2,000 per week. He has since been bought back by his old team, Sheffield United, for £500,000.

By contrast, his victim was hounded and smeared by the press during the time of the initial trial, having her sexual history dragged before a national audience and being accused of everything from “taking the lead” to purposely attempting to ruin the footballer’s career for personal gain. Evans’s teammates famously described her as a “money-grabbing little tramp”. She has had to move house five times and now lives in Australia, on the opposite side of the world, to escape harassment. During the trial her identity was kept a secret for her own protection, but she had to change her name in 2014 when her identity was illegally revealed on Twitter.

Pascoe acknowledges in her book exactly how the flaws in the national – and global – conversation about rape lead to instances like this:

“There are multitudes of warnings aimed at young women, shouting about the dangers of being wasted and vulnerable, while there is virtually nothing aimed at educating young men. And so you get cases like Ched Evans’s, where the defendant doesn’t even know that he has done wrong.”

The dialogue about rape needs to change so that it directly tackles the normalisation of sexist attitudes, particularly among young men, long before it gets to the point that anyone has been hurt.

Ultimately we need to the put the blame back squarely where it belongs – with the rapist.


Further reading:

Advice to Ched Evans” – article by Jean Hatchet

How Rape Crisis Scotland are challenging myths about rape” – article in FiLiA news

We Aren’t Doing Enough to Teach Girls About Sex” – interview with Girls & Sex author Peggy Orenstein