It’s really important that those leaving prison have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves; having suffered the punishment for their crime, that they and their families have an opportunity to move on with their lives and become useful members of society.
So, that’s why it’s important to understand that the revulsion that so many of us feel at the thought of the convicted rapist Ched Evans being able to walk back into his job as a footballer at Sheffield United is not one based on the principle that no rapist can ever be rehabilitated or pursue a career that they’re good at or that could bring them rewards. Rather, the revulsion is that this particular man should be invited back to to such a high profile and rewarding job as a league footballer.
The first reason that his reinstatement at Sheffield United is unthinkable is his own attitude to his crime. He is a convicted rapist, that is a fact. However, he is convinced that someone as drunk as his victim was when he raped her is able to give informed consent. The law says otherwise, indeed the judge in sentencing him said of his victim that she:
was in no position to form a capacity to consent to sexual intercourse, and you, when you arrived, must have realised that
But Ched Evans shows no remorse, no sense of understanding that he has a responsibility to ensure that the people he has sex with are able to give informed consent – no instead, we should all feel very sorry for him, a victim of justice! Note how he talks about the ‘alleged victim’ on his website – which just shows you just how far removed from understanding his crime he is – because he is a convicted rapist and there is nothing alleged about her, she was indeed his victim.
You can’t rehabilitate until you recognise your crime, until you take responsibility for your crime and understand the impact of your crime on your victim. There is nothing in that website that makes me think that Ched Evans wouldn’t behave in exactly the same way again. Be clear, I don’t mind that he likes to sleep with strangers, that he likes group sex and that he likes to be watched and filmed. I don’t even care that he does all this whilst in a relationship with someone else. None of these things are illegal and are all down to him. It is that he doesn’t understand that he needs to get informed consent and that if he doesn’t, because the victim was too drunk to be able to give it (which is a pretty objective test), that he is indeed a rapist.
Secondly, even if he had shown remorse or taken responsibility for his crime, there would still be a question mark over his ability to renew his league football career. And that’s because professional footballers, however ill-suited some of them may be to the role, are role models for millions of young people. To be able, to carry on, rehabilitated or not, just where you left off seems a very strange message to give young people. Prison is indeed a punishment but the loss of reputation and career is also part of the punishment and rehabilitation has to be worked for, it’s not in the gift of a football club.
So, good for Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has asked for her name to be removed from the stand named in her honour, and the three patrons of Sheffield Ltd who have stood down since Ched Evans started retraining back with Sheffield. As Jessica says,
I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example.
If Evans was to be re-signed by the club it would completely contradict these beliefs.
You do have to wonder what world these footballers, and the clubs that employ them, are living in that they can’t see the impossibility of an unrepentant, convicted rapist being able to swan back in as if nothing has happened. Of course, it would not be illegal to re-employ him but this is where societal norms play a role. It is a test for our society: if Ched Evans can be reinstated and that is acceptable then we really are in a bad place.
However, I am more of an optimist than that and I believe leaders and influencers such as Jessica Ennis and Carwyn Jones will ensure that the right thing happens. Indeed, this is a very good example of why we need more women in positions of power and leadership in our country; to set the norm for acceptable behaviour.