‘I had drafted this blog post a couple of days ago.  I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post it, as my emotion about this issue probably isn’t helpful, and I’m probably confusing my HR role with that emotion.  But his imminent signing today has made me hit the publish button.  I haven’t titled the post, because I simply could not find the words. 

As a bright eyed law student, I took a module in my final year called ‘women and the law’.   As part of the module, I read a book that had a profound effect on me.  The book was Eve Was Framed by Helen Kennedy.  I later wrote my dissertation on the law relating to rape, and in particular the issues faced within the legal system by the survivors of rape.

I’ve been following the Ched Evans saga with a mixture of sadness, anger and disbelief.  I find myself conflicted.

As a HR professional, I am supportive, intellectually, of employing ex-offenders.  I have done so many times in my career.  When I was a recruiter, I can recall sitting in front of someone who has recently left prison.  He told me everything about his conviction.  He told me it was a mistake that he bitterly regretted.  That he had learned from it, that it would never be repeated.  That he simply needed a chance.  We gave him one, and the appointment was a success.

When BITC called on employers to ‘ban the box’ last year, I believed that it was a positive step.  This campaign called for employers to stop asking for unrelated criminal convictions when recruiting.  To stop discriminating against ex-offenders.

Apparently some 15% of the UK population has a criminal record.   And according to the CIPD, employment is the single most important factor in reducing reoffending.

So I should believe that that Ched Evans deserves an opportunity to resume his career.  Shouldn’t I?

Because if you believe something as a principle, you can’t make an exception when you just don’t like the facts or a particular individual.

But here is the challenge for all of us. We bring personal stuff to work.  Our beliefs, our values, our experiences.  And sometimes you can’t get past them.

When I was thinking about this blog post, I found my copy of Eve Was Framed.  I haven’t looked at it for years.  It still has my handwritten notes in the margin.  Re reading it reminded me of this case, quoted within.  These words are taken from the Judge’s direction to the jury, in a case from 1982.

Women who say no do not always mean no.  If she does not want it she only has to keep her legs shut and she will not get it without force. 

One example amongst many.  The book reminded me again of often appalling low sentences given for this most violent of crimes.  It reminded me of the struggle that women have to go through when they report the offence. How many of them say the legal process compounds their ordeal.  Of how it is only in very recent history that it became unlawful for a man to rape his wife.

But the book was written in 1992.  And we have moved on.

Or have we?

Rape conviction rates in the UK are some of the lowest in Europe.  They are frankly, woeful.  Figures published in 2014 showed that there were just under 16,000 rapes on average are reported annually.  It is estimated that the true figure may be in excess of 100,000.  The reasons for under reporting are many and complex.  But victim blaming is part of it.

Thousands of cases are never reported.  Many that are never reach a courtroom.  When you look at the whole picture, something like 7% of all rapes result in an actual conviction.

The survivor of Ched Evan’s attack has been vilified, exposed on social media.  The dark side of that thing I am so passionate about.  She has had to move house five times and change her name three, according to newspaper reports.

What does this say about our society? What does this say about our battle for equality, today?

So I’m sorry, but no.  I can’t get past this.

My principles have disappeared.  My thoughts are only with his survivor.  And my hope is that one day, equality for women might mean that this situation is unthinkable.

Update: this post was written when it appeared that Ched Evans was about to be signed by a club.  Subsequently that signing did not go ahead, partly as a result of the pubic outcry, partly because, according to media reports, threats were made against board members and their families.  The latter is clearly reprehensible.  But I wish that the decision not to sign him had been taken for other reasons.  Not because the sponsors were pulling out, but in consideration of violence against women.





12 thoughts on “Untitled

  1. It’s hard to find the words on this one. It horrifies me that it is deemed acceptable to employ someone with this conviction and continued behaviour in a job in which, whether they like it or not, they are a role model to so many. To be honest – he could say sorry but it wouldn’t change my mind. Very sad.

  2. Great post Gemma, like you I did research on women”s experiences of the legal system after sexual assault & looked at public attitudes about ‘date rape’ in the early 90s. I had hoped times have changed but the figures speak for themself as does the abuse women speaking out about violence against women receive on social media. I too feel conflicted between believing in rehabilitation and yet feeling to my core that this situation is wrong, another survivor continues to be hounded and a convicted rapist returns to their life. For me rehabilitation means accepting your role in the crime & returning to a productive role in society, not being discriminated against but equally not assuming that life will just return to as it was before. Accepting your role and making amends, changing your course are key. In this instance the role is high profile, one that many children, especially young boys & men aspire to, as Em says above. I have seen no evidence that there is acceptance that a violent wrong has been done (and the sentence is not yet served, the individual is only through the penal element of the sentence). Conflicted, actually if I’m honest not really.

    • Thanks for commenting Kandy. I am not sure to what extend attitudes have changed, or changed significantly. The legal system has improved since I wrote my dissertation. However, a browse through the twitter hashtag #chedevans is truly horrifying. References to the survivor in the case in the most appalling terms. Suggestions she made it up, asked for it. Suggestions that he probably didn’t do it. We still have a very long way to go.

  3. ” I can recall sitting in front of someone who has recently left prison. He told me everything about his conviction. He told me it was a mistake that he bitterly regretted. That he had learned from it, that it would never be repeated. That he simply needed a chance.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Evans has done none of those things, and indeed continues to maintain he did nothing wrong. He needs to do what your interview candidate did and also accept that his football playing career is over – if he did both if these things then I, as a recruiter, would be perfectly happy to give him a chance to rebuild his life/career in a different working environment. Sadly, his own arrogance and/or stupidity, or that of his advisers, is ensuring that this won’t happen.

    Oldham Athletic have a good record of rehabilitating players who have done time, but I think they have made a serious error on this occasion.

    • I think it’s a devastating symptom of how dysfunctional football is.

      As a friend of mine wrote recently:
      Evans is a fully-fit, 26-year-old, full international striker capable of scoring 30 goals in the division they’re currently playing in and available for free.

      For a football chairman he’s a £2m windfall whose wages will be paid for by his girlfriend’s father, a man willing to cover any losses the club will make from withdrawn sponsorship, ticket sales, etc.

      It’s a sad indictment on the sport and culture that exists in football and it disgusts me.

    • Thanks Simon. I do think that the apology, or lack thereof, is relevant. As you say, it was certainly relevant to me in the case of the individual I hired. If you do not recognise that the issue is wrong, then this may well indicate likelihood of future reoffending?
      In truth, I’m not sure however how differently I would feel in this case even if an apology or remorse was forthcoming. This case is so unique – the specific nature of the crime, combined with the role of football within our society (rightly or wrong, men that are hero worshipped by many and paid at a level that is in the realm of dreams for most) means that I think I would feel much the same in any event.

  4. Fascinating , thought provoking
    So no rapists to be employed , ever, or just ched Evans?
    Or football as a prohibited job for rapists? What’s so special about footballers?
    The actions against the victim are appalling but as far as I know not by CE – is it right to further punish him for the actions of others?

    Thank you. Going to buy the book you recommend.


    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks for commenting. As I have said in response to an early comment, there is something quite unique about this case for me. The nature of the crime plus the role of football and footballers in our society. Men that are hero worshipped, and richly rewarded. You are right to note that most of the actions against his survivor are not by him, although they do expose an undercurrent in society that I find uncomfortable. However, his girlfriends family have set up a website in support of him, that does take part in this. It has been suggested (but I am no expert) that it may even be unlawful in terms of its content.
      As I suggest I am conflicted. I believe in rehabilitation and that reemployment is part of that. But I can’t equate this with this crime, and this job.

  5. Fabulous, thought-provoking post, Gem. As one of the 15%, I know how important that second chance is and, like you, I’ve felt somewhat conflicted by this case. The lack of contrition is distasteful, to say the least, but even total shits should be given a second chance. For me, the crucial thing (I think, though I waver) is that, like it or not, professional footballers are influential role models for many young (and even not so young) people, who pay huge (vastly inflated) sums for shirts emblazoned with their particular idol’s name. If Evans were a talented young MP, who’d single-mindedly devoted much of his life to the goal of one-day becoming a cabinet minister, he would have to accept that is not gonna happen and he must find an alternative way to earn a living and contribute to society. Lots of people have to make that sort of adjustment, every day of every week (though I haven’t yet given up on becoming an astronaut). Shit happens. So, whilst I haven’t signed any petitions, I don’t think Evans should be able to play professionally again, and to my mind he’s been poorly served by whoever is advising him. Anyway, that’s what I think *today*.

  6. Wow, what a thought provoking post.

    This subject was a topic of high debate at sunday dinner at the mother in laws house recently. In the end the points I made seemed to cease the debate a little:

    1. Evans continues to say he is innocent but yet he was convicted by the courts and was not granted an appeal. While I understand that he protests his innocence there is no acceptance of the due process that was followed. Along with this he continues to appear to show no sense compassion for victims of sexual crimes by continuing to perpetuate the media storm surrounding his conviction and “rehabilitation”

    2. I completely agree that he deserves to be rehabilitated into society and that all offenders should be given a chance to return to society. However, if Evans was a teacher, nurse, doctor etc he would not be permitted to return to these roles because of the risk he poses to others. While working as a footballer Evens does not pose a direct risk to others it is my belief he poses a indirect risk in that he is a role model for others (young or older!) who want to emulate him in some shape or form. Evans can do hundreds of other jobs, I understand how much he loves football, but tough people get injured and their careers ruined forever in sport they have to find something else, and they cope. He should move on and put what, particularly if he is innocent as he protests, is a horrible time in his life behind him.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, research and info.

  7. Thank you very much for writing this – I’ve been posting it to places saying “this is exactly what I think – read this!”
    You only have to read some of the comments on twitter to realise why the majority of rapes go unreported.

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