Justice should never be done like it was in the Ched Evans rape trial

Suggesting that you can work out whether a woman was raped by speaking to her ex-boyfriends is tantamount to saying that there are certain women who are ‘asking for it’ so much by their very character that they cannot be raped

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The Independent Online

Here are some facts about the retrial which ended in Ched Evans being found not guilty of rape today: family and friends offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to his acquittal before the case went to court for a second time. Ched Evans’ defence team used the woman’s ex-boyfriends as witnesses, asking them to graphically describe details about their sex lives with the woman in question and her sexual preferences.

Evans’ fiancée Natasha Massey was accused by the prosecution of offering an “inducement” to a key witness “that had the flavour of a bribe”, but the trial judge disagreed with that description. One blog publicly identified the woman and publicised her name during the trial, even though British law grants her lifetime anonymity. In court, Evans admitted that he lied in order to get a key for the hotel room that the woman was in and that he left afterwards via the fire escape; he also said that he didn’t speak to the woman before, during or after having sex with her. Evans’ defence team said: “Drunken consent is nevertheless consent. While disinhibited through drink, she did consent to sex. Lack of memory does not equal lack of consent.” After a highly publicised campaign against the woman, footballer Evans walked free today.

And here are some collected tweets from various members of the public, male and female, following news that Evans had been found not guilty: “That b***h who ruined Ched Evans’ career deserves to die. He is my new hero and I hate feminists”, “Glad Ched Evans is doing well, f**k you feminists”, “Shows how manipulative lasses can be if they want to be, throwing the rape card about and ruined Ched Evans’ career, justice is done slag”, “Ched Evans found not guilty, after all this time. The girl should go to prison, lying sh*t c**t slag”, “Jail the lying slag”, “Hope Ched Evans sues her for every penny. F**king slag”, “Ched Evans what a man #shesaidyes”, “Spiteful little cow #Ched”, “Shows how easily girls can lie about this stuff and ruin someone’s life”, “Ched Evans is innocent, lad’s reputation and career in tatters coz of some little slag”, “Get the dirty little lying slag in jug ASAP”, “Let’s hope the girl has her life ruined like he has. The c**t”, “Lock the lying c**t away and throw away the key”.

Ched Evans was found not guilty today, but the wave of misogyny that was unleashed by his supporters across social media didn’t make me feel optimistic about society. Nor did I find it heartening that the court case involved discussion of the woman’s sex life, given by two people she’d had relationships with in the past. When women decide whether to choose to report their rapists in the future, they will remember these tweets. They will remember a trial that responded to another woman’s rape claims with a defence team bringing in her ex-boyfriends as witnesses and questioning them about how kinky she was in her sex life. They will remember the people who deliberately spread this woman’s name and details around on Twitter and various blogs in an effort to discredit and intimidate her.

Suggesting that you can work out whether a woman was raped by speaking to her ex-boyfriends is tantamount to saying that there are certain women – certain “slags”, to use the language of Twitter – who are “asking for it” so much by their very character that they cannot be raped. They are so loose, so sexually immoral, so unladylike, so slutty, so available that they are effectively giving consent all the time. There is nothing to be learned from speaking to an ex-partner about a new rape case – and it’s shocking that this tactic was employed, and left unquestioned, in the retrial.

Evans may not be guilty, but the way in which rape trials are conducted – and the reactions to them – are powerful indicators of whether people who have been raped will choose to come forward in future. When justice is done, it should not be done like this.