Can rape ever be the fault of the victim? If you have been reading the papers this week, it seems some people believe so.
Sheffield United’s Ched Evans was convicted of rape and ordered to serve five and a half years in prison for raping a 19-year-old woman. Having served less than half of that sentence, he has now been freed and a debate has opened up about whether he should be allowed to return to the club.
Except that’s not where the discussion ends. Now, the nature of the incident is being examined by people across the land, piecing together the information they know in order to distinguish if he did in fact rape his victim, despite a court of law ruling that he had.
Through it all, Evans and his girlfriend, who has stood by him, have protested his innocence. This week, he self-published a video on YouTube, expressing his regret for his “infidelity” and stating his love and commitment to partner Natasha Massey.
The BBC was forced to apologise yesterday for Michael Buerk’s comment on the Radio 4 programme Moral Maze, which suggested the young woman has no credit in this case because she had “drunk so much that she could barely stand”.
But what of this victim? During the programme, Buerk admitted she is “hiding like an IRA informer in official anonymity” and is “being hounded by internet trolls”.
One poll claims that 50 per cent of women believe rape victims are to blame for their attack. Those aged between 18 and 24 were the most likely to have these views. Shockingly, 24 per cent of those in this age group added that wearing a short skirt, accepting a drink or having a conversation with the attacker made the victim responsible in part.
Is this how we are called to treat victims?
Somewhere in the UK there is a young woman who is hearing celebrities, footballers and the press say she is to blame for the attack she faced. Somewhere in the UK there is a young woman reading the hateful tweets and death threats. Somewhere in the UK there is a young woman who hears on the BBC that she has “no credit” to call this abuse because she had drunk too much.
We have a responsibility to try to stop suffering. We are called to do what we can to end it – whether that suffering is distant, where we give money to the work of charities in the developing world, or closer to home, like donating to foodbanks or becoming a foster carer.
The parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 teaches to help those who are suffering. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
The victim of this crime is suffering today. What are we going to do about it?
While joining the debate on Evans’ future is relevant, considering whether the victim is to blame is not. We should be denouncing rape in all forms, all situations and all places. We should be praying for those who persecute. We should be praying that victims know their value to God.
Jesus stood up for the needy, the vulnerable and the abused. Let’s follow his example in our discussions today.
Amaris Cole is editor of the Evangelical Alliance