by Zero Tolerance Development Officer, Amy Marshall
Over the past few weeks, Zero Tolerance has been contacted several times by journalists and broadcasters seeking comment on the Ched Evans case. It is generally our policy not to comment on individual cases. However, following the decision taken at the end of last week by another football club, Oldham Athletic, to not sign Evans, we felt that the conclusion of this particular case has highlighted some of the wider tensions for employers (and prospective employers) who want to take steps towards preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG), and need concrete advice for dealing with employees who choose to commit violence.
There is a growing body of research that suggests that to tackle the normalisation of gender based violence, various behaviours and practices must be challenged from a variety of sources including individuals, communities and institutions. We need to reduce our overall levels of “social tolerance” for violence. Yes, Oldham’s decision not to hire Evans was grounded, at least in large part, in commercial considerations. A number of advertisers threatened to pull business if Evans was hired. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see that social tolerance for rapists such as Evans appears to be reducing – the outcry over his possible reappointment was to such an extent that made it almost impossible for the club to sign him. This sends a powerful message to players and fans alike: sexual violence will have consequences for your professional life, and will not go unchecked. There will be those who will say that Evans “did his time”, but this fails to acknowledge, as other commentators have pointed out, that rehabilitation implies a sense of ownership and remorse for a crime committed, which Evans doesn’t seem to display. Other criminals who have served their time do not tend to go back to the exact same life they had before. In the same way that any employer may elect not to hire a candidate on the basis of a background check so too can professional footballing associations elect not to hire a convicted criminal. To expect Evans (a high profile figure and role model for young boys) to receive the same preferential treatment given his status and former life is at best, misguided.
At Zero Tolerance, we are continuing to develop our PACT (Policy, Action, Communication and Training) scheme aimed at encouraging employers to consider violence against women and girls not only their business as a socially responsible body, but as something which can unknowingly affect their daily business. Given that 1 in 3 women will experience violence within her lifetime, the chances are fairly high that employers can expect to be working amongst both victims and perpetrators in the workplace, and abuse could even be occurring in work time and on work premises. A report by the Trade Unions Congress in 2014 found that of those experiencing domestic violence: over 80% felt that the experience had affected their work performance, 20% had to take a month of or more and for 10% the abuse followed them to work in the form of abusive phone calls/emails. We can’t help but wonder whether much of the speculation and debate around Evans could have been helped by employers like Oldham having a VAWG policy. Whilst Oldham never got as far as hiring Evans, many employers would benefit from implementing work place policies which provide employees with steady procedural practice, support for victims, information on the legalities of dismissal in such cases and most importantly how to create a prevention culture based on a shared intolerance for violence towards women and girls.