Ched Evans is not a rapist. That should be made clear from the outset. His conviction for that offence was quashed on appeal and he is entitled to his name, his liberty and his new employment at Sheffield United, free of equivocation.
Still, given the road he has travelled over the past six years, given the lengths he went to in order to clear his name, given the legal, moral and linguistic rabbit holes his case travelled down as it made its way through the courts – given all of it, you’d think he’d be keen to show some learning.
Not so, if his Sunday Times interview last week is anything to go by. Evans has been working with the PFA for the past year on the area of consent and seems intent on presenting himself as a cautionary tale. Although not exactly in the way you might hope.
“I just think people need to be aware of the issues around consent and how a charge can come about,” he said. “If a drunk man sleeps with a drunk woman, there is only one person that could be charged and that is the man. 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.
“I also think 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.”
It is a fact of life that rape and consent and even just the basic to-and-fro psychology of sexual relations is incredibly complex. The landscape is riddled with grey areas, power plays, he-said-she-saids. When it comes to the twilight world of semi-famous sportsmen, money and celebrity throw further mistrust and suspicion into the mix on both sides. All of it piles up and mutates to the point where it is never particularly helpful to talk about the subject in simplistic terms.
And yet the level of nonsense Evans is talking here is depressing and dangerous and actually quite straight-forward to address. Clearly his lived experience brings him to the judgment that the area of consent that needs work is a supposed police agenda “to find ways to charge people”. But every statistic and report from work done in this area tells us that this in no way chimes with the lived experience of the vast majority of rape victims.
Indeed, it is the polar opposite. Far from being apparently driven to bring charges, the most recent study in this area showed that in 72 per cent of rapes of adults and children in England and Wales, police didn’t even refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether to charge a suspect. The Rape Crisis Centre in the UK says that only 5.7 per cent of reported rape cases end in a conviction. These are not the statistics of a society that is aggressively pursuing rape convictions.
And as for advising women on their drinking habits on the basis that there are actual rapists out there, if that’s the conclusion his work in the area of consent has brought him to, then he clearly wasn’t paying attention when the concept of victim-shaming came up.
Women are not raped because of the clothes they wear or the drink they take. They are raped because men force them to have sex against their will. Evans did not rape the waitress with whom he had a threesome in a hotel room in Wales in May 2011 but if he is going to be pronouncing about rape culture, it would be helpful if he steered clear of blaming women.
At the heart of all this is a refusal by us, by men, to call this stuff out. The characterisation Evans chooses to put on his behaviour that night is “childish and immature”. As if it was just high jinks, the normal boys-will-be-boys carry-on that young men get up to. No shame in it. Oops.
The following facts are undisputed. Evans lied to get a key to the hotel room where his friend Clayton McDonald was having sex with a woman. He took part in the threesome while his brother and another man were standing outside the hotel room window trying to film it. He left via the fire escape having at no stage spoken to the woman.
Having initially been jailed, his conviction was overturned after his defence team was allowed to bring the woman’s sexual history into the court record. The woman, who was outed on social media, has had to change her identity and move cities multiple times. “I feel like we were both victims,” said Evans last week, which was mighty chivalrous of him.
Rape culture exists. It is not a figment of women’s imagination, nor is it a virtue-signaller’s hobby-horse of the month. Somewhere along the line, men are going to have to stand up and talk honestly and unequivocally about how we go changing a culture that makes women uncomfortable at best and fearful at worst.
If Ched Evans fancies being a part of that conversation, fair play to him. But this wasn’t a good start.