British footballer Ched Evans, is still being discussed on Twitter despite being sent to prison for rape last week. The footballer, who played for Sheffield United, was sentenced to five years in jail for raping a 19-year-old woman. According to the judge the woman was 'extremely intoxicated' and 'in no condition to have sexual intercourse'.
UK law grants lifelong anonymity for rape survivors. However, two days after the sentence had been passed on the footballer, the rape victim had been publicly named on Twitter. Furthermore, due to the hashtag #justiceforched she had been subjected to abuse about her drunken conduct when she was raped in May 2011.
Her name was circulated so widely that it became a trending topic on Twitter over the weekend.
Sky News inadvertently showed a screenshot of Twitter which briefly displayed the name of the rape victim. It has since apologised for its error. A Sky spokesperson said "We would like to apologise to the victim and her family for any distress caused."
The police have been proactive in bringing offenders who broadcast the victim's identity to justice. In a statement yesterday DCI Steve Williams said:
“As and when criminal offences are identified on such websites they will be dealt with robustly and arrest made if appropriate and the offenders will be brought to justice".
Today, a number of Twitter users have been arrested who are alleged to have named the 19-year-old rape victim. One of Evans' teammates Connor Brown was suspended by Sheffield United after he allegedly voiced his support by making offensive comments about the victim on Twitter.
Victims can be named and propagated through Twitter by people who do not think through the consequences of their actions. The UK police have shown that they are making steps to stamp out online abuse when the victim is protected by UK law.
As DCI Williams says:
“I would advise people who post such status and tweets to consider the implications of their action and those who add comments to appreciate that they may be condoning such behaviour and contributing to the continued trauma upon this young woman.“
Be careful what you say on Twitter and make sure that you do not say anything that you would not feel comfortable hearing said back to you in a court of law.