The sorry saga of Ched Evans, the Sheffield United player found guilty of rape, has revealed the alarming prevalence of what has become known as “rape culture” — the unquestioned acceptance of myths around sexual violence.
Rape Crisis identifies these myths as including: that rape happens because women are outside alone at night; because women dress or behave “provocatively”; because women don’t say “no” clearly enough; because women were drunk; because women don’t fight back, scream or run away; because men cannot control themselves; because some men are psychopaths; because men who have no partners must relieve their sexual frustration; that if the man was unarmed or the woman suffered no additional physical injuries, it can’t have been rape; that women lie about rape.
The simple truth that rape is sexual penetration without consent is constantly obscured in a blizzard of misogyny.
As soon as Evans and Clayton McDonald were charged, social network sites including Facebook and Twitter were alive with incessant repetition of one rape myth after another. The woman he raped was subjected to abuse and vilification. She was also unlawfully named (rape survivors are granted lifetime anonymity). That naming has resulted in 17 [as at 16 May] arrests, and police questioning Sky TV officials.
Banners and graffiti proclaiming Evans’ innocence appeared around his home in Wales.
In response, feminists and other progressives on Mumsnet initiated a campaign of support for the woman as part of the “We believe you” project.
“We believe you” came about after an informal survey and discussions on Mumsnet where a great many women disclosed our personal experiences of sexual violence. The benefits of mutual support quickly moved beyond empathising with personal misfortune to an analysis of gender inequality and power relations in society and the recognition of the need for a political solution.
We called on Mumsnet HQ to contact the FA to encourage it to implement its professed commitment to gender equality but have had no response so far. We established the “I Believe Her” Facebook page to counter the appalling use of Facebook by Evans’ supporters; our page has around 2,000 supporters.
We used social networks to promote the petition initiated by Leo Hardt to get the Professional Footballers Association to drop Evans from the League One team of the year honours list. The petition has gathered nearly 24,000 signatures so far.
As the PFA represents professional footballers, they say they are reluctant to act against one of their members while an appeal against conviction is ongoing. They have made no attempt to postpone the award ceremony until the legal situation is concluded; consequently, they plan to honour a convicted rapist
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, is behind the proposal for racist abuse to be a sackable offence, included in Premier and Football Leagues players’ contracts from next season. Incidents involving Suarez and Terry led Taylor to state that black players might not lodge official complaints because of “such intimidation with social networks”. He appears to have made no statement on sexism.
What can you do?
- Sign the petition here
- Join the Facebook group
- We are promoting the following model resolution – propose this to your organisation, trade union or students’ union branch:
This ……… notes:
1. Ched Evans of Sheffield United and three other men were involved in the rape of a young woman.
2. Some supporters of Sheffield United and Ched Evans unlawfully named the woman and perpetuated a series of rape myths on social network sites, for which some have been arrested.
3. This ……… further notes the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in Britain, affecting 25% of women resulting in only a 6% conviction rate.
4. This …….. further notes TUC policy on violence against women.
5. This …….. further notes that the PFA is affiliated to the TUC.
This ……… calls on the TUC:
1. To require affiliates to use appropriate disciplinary procedures against members acting in contravention of TUC policy on violence against women.
2. To produce educational materials on the law relating to sexual violence and consent, in collaboration with Rape Crisis guidelines; to be distributed to fans through publication in match programmes, adverts shown at grounds, televised matches and the national press.
3. These actions to start immediately.