It seems barely credible that just one week ago I had never heard of Ched Evans, Chloe Madeley or Sarah Vine, and Judy Finnegan was half of a TV duo with her husband Richard Madeley.
Fast forward seven days and I sit contemplating the fact that for the past few days social media has been flooded by mentions and criticisms of all five of the above named people. Unless you have been living in a bubble I am sure you will be all too aware of the furore. For those who are unaware of any of the key actors in the social media Psychodrama let me briefly explain who is who and why they have suddenly become of interest.
Ched Evans is a third rate footballer (soccer player) who plays for a third rate football team called Sheffield United who ply their trade in the lower reaches of English football. Evans was a nobody until 2012 when he was imprisoned for 5 years for the rape of a young woman in a hotel room in Wales.
Judy Finnegan is one half a a television presenting team with her husband Richard Madeley. They are ‘C’ list celebrities who’s greatest claim to fame is the fact that Madeley was once arrested, tried and acquitted on a charge of stealing champagne from a Tesco’s store in Manchester. Chloe Madeley is their daughter and is a ‘D’ list celebrity who is famous only for being their daughter and apparently for appearing on some reality television programme or other on the back of that.
Sarah Vine is so famous that she doesn’t even have her own page on wikipedia. She is however married to Michael Gove, the most unpopular Minister for Education in living memory. Gove was sacked from his job as education secretary and moved to the whips office. Vine writes a column for the Daily Mail, arguably the most right wing controversial and vilified tabloid newspaper in the UK.
Finnegan this week started a new job on a television programme called ‘Loose Women’. Now I have never seen this programme and nor am I ever likely to. I understand it is a magazine programme not a genre of ‘entertainment’ that I am ever likely to be drawn to. The title of the programme identifies it in my eyes as of dubious value with its less than subtle implication that the content is likely to be titillating in some way.
Sadly for Finnegan her first day in her new job went badly wrong due in the main to a poor choice of words during a discussion. The item under discussion was Mr Evans pending release from prison after serving half of his 5 year sentence and his assertion that he wished to return to his ‘job’ of kicking a football for Sheffield United. A petition was duly instigated to try to stop this from happening and over 100k people signed it. During the discussion Finnegan appeared to be supporting Evans and unfortunately said something like “He’s served his time and the rape was not violent” she went on “He didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person. It was unpleasant, in a hotel room, I believe, and she had far too much to drink.”
Finnegan was later forced to apologise after being accused of blaming the victim of Evans attack and of playing down the psychological effects of rape. I have some sympathy for Finnegan. Her comments were clumsy, ill advised and incredibly stupid and ignorant. Finnegan was subject to a torrent of abuse on social media and of course the internet trolls raised their ugly heads threatening to rape and abused her daughter so that she could better understand the effects rape has on the victim. Madeley was drawn into the row when he, perhaps understandably, stepped in to defend his wife and daughter. He threatened to prosecute every internet troll who had abused his family. He should perhaps have known better than to feed the trolls.
In my view it is easy to understand why people were angry with Finnegan. Rape is a hideous offence. Unless you have been subject to such an offence or have been involved in supporting those who have it is impossible to know how deeply survivors are affected (and I have). A survivors response is a deeply personal thing every individual reacts differently. For one person the fear they experienced by being beaten, threatened and raped by a knife wielding maniac may affect them more deeply than the rape itself, for others the act of rape and the feeling of powerlessness is worse than any physical injury. For some the psychological damage experienced when they are raped by someone they hitherto liked and trusted is something they will never get over. In my experience one of the most damaging aspects of rape is that survivors often blame themselves. They ask ‘what did I do to make this happen’, ‘what could I have done to stop this’, ‘why didn’t I fight back, why didn’t I stop him’. This self doubt, self criticism and loss of self confidence is present in almost all survivors. It may be a cliche but in almost all cases the physical injuries heal much more quickly than the psychological injuries.
That is why my anger and contempt is reserved almost exclusively for Sarah Vine and the editorial staff at the Daily Mail (or the Hate Mail as it colloquially known in the UK). Ms Vine you see insists on perpetuating the myth that rape survivors are in some way responsible for what happens to them. She didn’t just use some ill advised words in the midst of a conversation about the issue. She chose to write on the subject, she chose to take a deliberately provocative stance by claiming that Finnegan was right to say what she did. She chose to say that Evans victim was responsible in some way for her own rape because she had been drinking with Evans and went to a hotel room with him. She suggests that by getting drunk she was ‘asking for it’. What next, ‘she deserved to be raped because she wore a short skirt, tight trousers or a low cut top’? She is to blame because ‘she had blue eyes’ or ‘she wore her hair in a certain way’? This is simply warped and back to front thinking.
Lets be 100% clear the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist. There should be no excuses and no playing down of the matter. A rape is a rape and no-one other than the survivor is in a position to know how it affects them. Any rape is a violent act and a violation. What is even more contemptible is the fact that Ms Vine and the Daily Mail have been involved in a similar furore in the past. Not years ago as you might assume but in February of this year. Clearly they have learned nothing from that experience and choose to print such a controversial article purely to try to sell a few more papers.
There are times when people should just stop themselves from speaking about an issue. There is an old truism that says “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove any doubt”. This, Ms Vine, is undoubtably one of those times.