Ched Evans, the Sheffield United footballer, has recently been at the centre of a furore this week. If you’re not aware who this man is, we ought to establish some facts before continuing.
Picture the scene: you’re on a night out, and have a couple of drinks. You see an individual of clear wealth, perhaps even recognize his face as being an international football player, and begin talking to him. You assume, as a man with the spotlight inevitably on his life, there can be an element of trust placed in his hands. You believe he won’t force you to do something you’re uncomfortable with doing. Alas, the belief is wrong. Your life is stricken from you, your dignity taken, and your confidence slashed. Two years later, the man returns to the spotlight, gleaming with an arrogant smile and clear lack of remorse, and the prospect of receiving £20,000 a week.
Ian Birrell, of The Guardian, recently purported that the man should have the opportunity to receive rehabilitation – as Evans sat his sentence and justice was rightly served. In the case, the judge presiding said that Evans had “thrown away” his career. And indeed he did do, because when he took advantage of a vulnerable girl – because being drunk and losing control doesn’t imply consent – he violated a clear position of trust.
We’re not abandoning liberalism, as Birrell suggests, by allowing a convicted rapist appear on television and receive ovation each week for a goal he may score. Young children watching a game he may play in at home shouldn’t idolize him; he shouldn’t be seen as a role model and something to aspire to be. The man is despicable and should be forced to sacrifice this liberty – he has taken much more from the woman he violated.
But where do we draw the line? Should the farmer or the van driver who has committed the same crime be disallowed the opportunity to return to work? To compare the role of a footballer in society and the role of a farmer or a van driver is ridiculous. It’s like comparing the similarities between a goose and the Ebola virus: the only thing they have in common is that they’re both living organisms. No, Ched Evans should have the opportunity to be some kind of role model or star taken away from him. It pales in comparison to what the victim has to go through each and every day. Even now, the abuse she receives on Twitter and other social media outlets is astonishing – and a horrible reflection of the society we live in where we still blame the victim. If any one deserves support and rehabilitation, it is that young girl.
“It is through such hideously contentious cases that we determine the direction of our society.” The direction Ian Birrell suggests we go is certainly the wrong one, in my view. The only thing Ched Evans deserves is obscurity: a name we no longer recall or idolize. Support and help for his actions to ensure he doesn’t commit such a vile atrocity again can be done elsewhere, but not in the public sphere for us all to see.