Rapist footballer pleads for ‘second chance’

Appealing: Ched Evans says in a video statement he will continue the fight to clear his name.

Public opinion is divided this week over whether striker Ched Evans, now out of prison after a rape conviction, should be allowed to play for his old team. Has he paid his debt to society?

‘Super Ched Evans!’ Sheffield United fans chanted before a fixture this week against Bradford City, in a strong show of support for their former star striker. But the crowd's action has shocked many. Evans has just finished serving a prison sentence for rape and the chants have only added to an already heated public debate about the footballer’s future.

The 27-year-old former player was released from prison last Friday, after serving half of a five-year sentence. In 2011 the Welsh international was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman at a hotel in Rhyl, north-east Wales. The jury unanimously decided that because the woman was drunk, she was not capable of consenting to sex.

Evans is desperate to clear his name — and to get his old job back. He has always maintained that the sex was consensual. In a video posted on his website this week, he again proclaims his innocence and asks for a ‘second chance’ to play for his club again.

Yet many are outraged that he has offered no apology to his victim, who has been forced to flee her home after her identity was revealed by a vicious Twitter campaign against her.

While some fans have called on Sheffield United to take Evans back, over 150,000 people have signed an online petition urging the club to drop him. Even the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has waded into the debate, urging bosses to think ‘long and hard’ about the decision.

But even if Sheffield United do not take Evans back, another club might. Marlon King was sacked by Wigan Athletic after serving a sentence for sexual assault in 2009, yet has since gone on to play for several other high profile clubs.

Crime and punishment

Evans has served his time, some argue, and shouldn’t be punished again by losing the working life he knew and loved. To argue anything else makes a mockery of the legal system. The law protects all of us against ‘mob rule’. Campaigners should not be allowed to take justice into their own hands and lead campaigns out of a sense of vengeance. Evans’s career already hangs by a thread; this sends a clear enough message to young men about the serious nature of rape.

But others say that handing him back his high-paying, high profile job minimises the appalling nature of his crime. Rehabilitation requires remorse for his actions and Evans has shown none. Seeing Evans cheered on the pitch will be distressing for other rape victims and may deter them from coming forward to press charges. It also sends a terrible message to young boys, who idolise and respect their sporting heroes. A lawyer, teacher or doctor couldn’t return to their job after committing such a crime — nor should a high profile footballer.

You Decide

  1. Should Sheffield United allow Evans to play for them again?
  2. Should Evans have served a longer sentence for his crime?

Activities

  1. Take a look at some of the situations given in the Brook link in ‘Become an Expert’, which discuss consent. Design a poster and slogan based on one of the examples.
  2. Class debate: ‘This House believes Ched Evans has paid his debt to society and should be allowed to play for Sheffield United.’

Some People Say...

“Some types of rape are worse than others.”

What do you think?

Q & A

How does this affect me?
The Evans case demonstrates the importance of consent in sexual relationships and some comments on Twitter and elsewhere seem to show how little it is truly understood. It is crucial to understand that everyone has an absolute right to say ‘no’ to any form of sex or sexual touching at any time and for any reason. Sexual touching without consent is illegal.
Isn’t it the girl’s fault because she was drunk?
No. This is what is known as ‘victim-blaming’. Of course, drinking sensibly on a night out and making sure you know how to get home is good, solid advice. But rape is rape, and the only person to blame for it is the rapist, not the victim. In legal terms, people who are drunk or high are incapable of consenting to sex, and taking advantage of someone in these states is rape.

Word Watch

Half
Evans was sentenced to five years on 20 April 2012 with a minimum term to be served of two and a half years, subject to good behaviour.
Identity
Nine people were prosecuted for naming the victim in 2012. She was 19 when she was raped by Evans and subsequently granted lifelong anonymity. She was forced to change her name and move house after she was harassed on Twitter by football supporters who mentioned her real identity 6,000 times.
Nick Clegg
The Sheffield Hallam MP said: ‘I don’t think it’s right for politicians to tell football clubs what they will do and who they employ. All I’m saying is I think football players these days, they get paid a lot of money, they are public figures and you can’t ignore that.’
Respect
A Newsround survey last year found that 24% of boys between 8 and 12 want to be footballers when they grow up.

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