Oscar Pistorius and Ched Evans don't deserve sympathy for their 'ruined' lives - they are not the real victims

Why do we value the lives of men over women?

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The Independent Online

Today, Ched Evans will leave prison, after serving around half of his five-year sentence for rape. At the same time, in a court in South Africa, a judge is deciding what punishment Oscar Pistorius deserves, after shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead. It's hard not to draw parallels between the two cases, and the way in which perfectly illustrate how our society values the lives of men over women.

It’s unclear yet whether Evans will be returning to Sheffield United. A petition signed by over 100,000 people has asked the club to turn him away. But there is certainly a group of people who would welcome him with open arms on to the pitch. If he is invited back to play, then every weekend for the next few years a woman will have to watch as her rapist is cheered by thousands of fans and celebrated as a hero to teenage boys up and down the country. The same fans who named her online, and forced her from her home and into changing her identity.

Many of those calling for Evans’ return still refuse to believe he is a rapist. When I tweeted earlier that he is a rapist, a fan responded telling me to ‘read the facts, not the headlines’. Ok. Here are some facts for you: Ched Evans was accused of rape. He was charged with rape. He was convicted of rape. He served time for rape. Ched Evans is a rapist.

He was convicted of rape because he raped a 19 year-old woman who was so intoxicated that she was unable to consent. That’s rape. It isn’t ‘bad sexual etiquette’ or ‘just something that happens’ and it certainly wasn’t her fault. She’s not a ‘slag’ or a ‘gold digger’ – as Evans’ fans have called her. She is a victim of rape, and he is a rapist. 

Of course, Evans has served his time (although what a short time it has been). I understand the arguments that he is entitled to get on with his life. And of course there is a debate to be had about our prison system, and whether its purpose is punishment or rehab. But I don’t want to go into that here. I hear those arguments, and then I think of his victim. What about her life? What about her future? When Evans raped her, did he care about if her life would be ruined? When his fans named her, abused her, and drove her from her home into hiding, did they care about her life?

Will the football club be thinking about her, if they give Evans a strip that will make him a role model? Will the sponsors be thinking about her, if they then arrange profitable deals that will make him the face of their products? 

Does anyone care about how it would be to see your rapist to be celebrated, cheered, feted, slapped on the back and held up as a hero?

As a society, we pretend to think rape is bad. But at the same time as claiming our horror about rape, we still reward celeb rapists with plaudits and success (I’m looking at you, Mike Tyson). We promise them our silence, so that the devastating crime they chose to commit is never mentioned. And we tacitly agree to never, ever mention the victim. We co-operate, and pretend to forget that the man we are celebrating deliberately chose to violate a woman’s bodily autonomy.

I don’t want Evans to rot in jail – I realise that he’s served his time according to his sentence. But I want it to be fully, truly recognised that what he did was wrong. And part of that recognition is agreeing that he can’t stroll back into the life he had, and revel in the cheers of thousands, and, crucially, be held up as a hero to thousands more football fans.

Because that’s not acknowledging the seriousness of his crime. That’s not acknowledging the impact rape has on women’s lives. That’s doing a Tyson, again. That’s just going along with what rapists want to happen. It is an insult to his victim, and it is an insult to women who have been raped everywhere. 

And then there’s Pistorius – a man who shot his girlfriend dead and was found guilty of culpable homicide. His PR people have been very busy re-writing his story. This is no longer the story of a man who fired his gun four times through the bathroom door and as a result killed his girlfriend. This is now the story of his ‘ordeal’ from which he will ‘never recover’. The judge today has said that he has  suffered enough already after being being wrongly villified as pre-meditated murderer for 18 months.

Let’s make one thing very clear: Pistorius is more like to recover from this than Reeva Steenkamp. It didn’t take long for the Paralympics committee to talk about Pistorius as an ‘inspiration’ who they would welcome back to competitive sport. It didn’t take long before the memoir deal started being discussed. It’s a memoir where he’ll be cast as a ‘tragic hero’. This could be ‘the sports biography of the century’ guys! When I read that line I thought I might throw up. 

Because amid all the excitement, all the hype, and all the sympathy for Pistorius, we’ve forgotten the woman lying dead in the bathroom. Just like in all the angry defence of Ched Evans, and the cheers demanding his return to the pitch, we’ve forgotten the woman lying raped in a hotel room. Why do we value the lives of men over women?  These cases show how much more concerned we are with the ‘ruined lives’ of these men, than the lives of their victims. We express concern about men’s ruined lives – while carefully ignoring the fact that it was their actions that caused this so-called ‘ruin’. We bend ourselves backwards trying to accommodate violent men, trying to make sure rapists and killers are ‘okay’, trying to make sure the crimes they committed don’t continue to impact on them. We feel embarrassed if we mention the crimes. We keep quiet about how they brought the ‘ruin’ on themselves. We tread carefully, so they don’t have to feel bad about what they did.

And we don’t care about the impact of their actions on the lives of the women. We don’t care about how rape impacts on a woman’s life – how it can lead to PTSD, and physical and mental health complications. We don’t want to hear about how women’s lives are ruined by the actions of violent men. We don’t want to think about Reeva Steenkamp, when we buy Pistorius’ memoir. We don’t want to think about Evans’ victim, when he scores that winning goal. So we just conveniently take them out of the narrative. 

After all, it doesn’t matter if women’s lives are ruined by violent men, does it? It doesn’t matter that it happens every day. The Evans and Pistorius cases show that what matters to our society most is the fallen abuser. It’s more important to us that the violent man can have his life back. 

I’m not having it. I can’t stay silent. I can’t join in with the pretence that these men’s lives are ruined. I can’t ignore their victims.

So just remember this: Pistorius’ life wasn’t ruined; Reeva Steenkamp’s life was ended. Ched Evans’ life wasn’t ruined; Ched Evans is a rapist.