Ched Evans has recently been acquitted of the rape of a 19-year-old waitress in a hotel in 2011 and very quickly this girl, the victim, has been labelled a 'slut', a 'liar' and deemed public enemy number one by us, the ever sympathetic public. The abuse that she, that this whole case, is receiving has reached such a height that the police are actually working frantically trying to reassure sexual assault victims that despite the treatment of this girl, that they will be 'listened to, treated sensitively and with respect, and that their allegations will be taken seriously."
But really, on what grounds are we supposed to believe them? Some how the shambles that is this case saw this girl not only being NAMED on Social Media (despite being promised anonymity by the court as is her RIGHT,) but being abused to such an extent that rumour has it she's trying to move to Australia. All of this for a girl who woke up one morning in a room that she didn't recognise and asked her friends for help.
Fast forwards five years and her sexual history is being read out to the jury, something that I genuinely cannot believe to be true. Following on from a legal and PR Campaign by friends and family of Evans a £50,000 reward was offered for information. Once enough was found, the case was reopened and other waitresses came forward - all of a sudden this has lead to the victim's sexual history becoming the jury's business.
It feels so wrong. It feels like the court was inviting people to deem whether or not she was asking for it, whether or not she DESERVED it, like it was something of her own doing just because of the decisions she had made in the past. The ridiculousness of it all would almost be laughable if it wasn't distressing to me on every level. The logic isn't there. Let's dumb this down and look at it another way:
I'm in hospital being treated for salmonella and the doctor says to me: Em, you've been eating eggs every day for three years now, and so do you REALLY expect us to believe that you just got salmonella out of nowhere? Surely you knew you were tempting fate by doing it every single day? That you were kind of asking for it? That you were sort of expecting it?
Or let's look at it like this: Ched Evans is at the physio with a bad knee because he twisted it playing football and they say to him: Ched, buddy, come on. You made the decision to play football as a teenager, you've played enough games, you must surely know by now that if you keep going out and playing football so freely that one day it's going to end in trouble? It was only a matter of time. You made the choice to play Football after all.
Now let's take it to court, to the jury, this girl has had sex in the past and so they say to her: Oh, your records show that you have been quite flirty in the past, that you've had sex before, that you're quite a sexual person, surely you know that behaving like that you're just asking for it?
Sound about right to you? Does it fuck.
This feels like a case from the dark ages. How is this still happening? I don't understand, I don't even want to understand. It's all so WRONG. And do you want to know one of the worst things about this? (There are plenty to choose from), a WOMAN tweeted yesterday saying this:
And then, following an argument with various others:
All of this from a woman, a mother no less. I despair, I honestly do. And that brings me onto the conversation that we need to have.
But before I start, I need to say this: Sexual harassment, sexual assault is NEVER the victim's fault. It is impossible to ask for it and you cannot deserve it. It really is that simple.
What we can do, is lie about it. And one a million times, someone does. And that is wrong on every level. I know men who have lost their entire lives in cases like this and it is truly truly wrong, they're names have been tarnished, they've been dragged through hell and they are innocent. But I also know women, I know girls who have been raped and harassed and assaulted and I know how properly frightened they have been about coming forwards in case they are not believed, because they were drunk, because it was their boyfriend, because the perpetrator is popular. I know girls who have gone into the deepest, darkest realms of depression, who have been driven to trying to take their own lives, because of not only what happened to them, but because they are afraid of what would happen if they came forwards.
And who can blame them? When in public cases such as these end in Ched Evans ready to pick back up his career whilst the victim is considering fleeing the country? When she was branded a slut? Who can blame them when the first question many of them are asked is what they were wearing when the attack happened? Or if they had been drinking beforehand? When we are made to feel like it's our fault for deciding to walk home alone, or leave our drink unattended for a moment?
I will say it again: sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim.
Is it really good enough that I don't feel safe walking home alone? That I clutch my drink so tightly on a night out? That when I'm alone in London at night I hold my keys in between my fingers for protection? Is it OK that I feel like I'm inviting stares in short skirts so instead opt to wear jeans? Of course it isn't. So why isn't THIS the area that we are focussing our attention in? Why is Julia Hartley-Brewer, a MOTHER, and countless women like her, too busy branding a victim a slut to notice the genuine threat that there is to her daughter?
Yes, one in a million times someone lies and it is truly awful for the alleged attacker. But every other time there is a terrified victim too scared to come forwards because of what will happen to her and in what world is that OK?
Not one I want to live in. At no point did the victim in this case allege that Evans had raped her, she woke up one morning in a strange hotel with no idea how she got there and the suspicion that she had been spiked. The police were called and they were the ones that found out that Evans was the person who had booked and paid for the room. It was later discovered that they had had sex, which brings me onto another point actually, 'legal' or not in this instance, to my mind, the state this girl was no doubt it: drunken consent at this level does not count as consent.
But let's step away from this case for a minute and look at the bigger picture. The picture in which 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 16 and that only about 15% of those women who have been sexually assaulted in the UK think to report it to the police. The picture in which WE, our friends, our daughters, our sisters are too scared to tell the police that they have been attacked because of what will happen to them. This is a picture that needs repainting and fast, I can't live in a world like this I really really can't.
This case is complex and so perhaps there were elements to it that that won't happen again, the naming of the victim for a start, and the reading of her sexual past to the jury. Girls, and men actually, any victims need to be assured that they will not be judged and criticised if they finally find the courage to speak up, they need to be promised undying support, from EVERYONE, as it should be.
I will say it one more time: Sexual harassment, sexual assault is NEVER the victim's fault. It is impossible to ask for it and you cannot deserve it.