‘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.