As you may have read in the news yesterday, Adam Johnson was charged with three counts of sexual activity with an under-age girl and one count of sexual grooming.
We don’t know the full story yet. All we know is that the Sunderland player has been charged by the police and will appear before a judge Peterlee Magistrates Court on May 20th. But that, of course, does not stem the tide of speculation and conjecture from freely flowing on social media.
The reaction has been wholly depressing in some parts. You get the usual jokes, which are juvenile but to be expected. Even worse, though, is the slut shaming and ignorance that followed the story. The worst bit of all is that this is not the least bit surprising.
We have seen this all before with Ched Evans. Footballer commits alleged sexual offence, victim is identified online and further victimised, while said footballer receives support because he can score goals. In that case, at least, there were denizens of football fans from Sheffield United and subsequently Oldham Athletic who refused to stand idly by while a rapist attempts to return to the sport.
It should be noted at this point that in the eyes of the law Adam Johnson is innocent until proven guilty, unlike one Twitterer who just assumed he was found guilty already.
The sympathy shown for Johnson, as it was for Evans, is bizarre. This tweet, for instance, is wrong in so many ways and encapsulates the mass ignorance.
Gotta feel for Adam Johnson, his lifes been ruined because a girl lied about her age in a 18+ club and acted like a attention whore
— Brad Jarman (@brad_jarman725) April 23, 2015
First of all, Johnson’s life has not been ‘ruined’ because of anyone. If these allegations are to be found true, then he will have no one to blame but himself. Secondly, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that we currently know of that he met this girl in a club or that she has ever even been inside an over-18’s club. It is also an irrelevant point when trying to judge whether or not he is guilty, which brings me to my last point about this tweet: blaming the victim. Again, there is nothing to suggest this person brought this on themselves, yet she is apparently an “attention whore”. It is everything that is wrong with the perception of sexual violence.
The related searches on Twitter are equally depressing:
One person posted a photo of a woman claiming that it was the victim. They had instead posted a photo of the girlfriend Johnson had cheated on. This erroneous tweet had the potential to ruin a few people’s lives, including their own, as revealing the identity of someone who may be the victim of a sexual crime is against the law. But only retweets matter apparently.
Unfortunately police had to publish a warning after the victim was apparently named online in March.
The amount of sympathy for Johnson from young women is even more disconcerting. Many of them tweet about how they “personally feel sorry” (as opposed to impersonally feeling sorry?) and that it’s her own fault this happened. The inability of fellow females to sympathise and put themselves in the victim’s shoes is not just worrisome, it does not bode well for the process of finding justice.
In 2011, there were 1,992 sexual offences recorded in Ireland, according to statistics from the CSO. Only 318 of these cases went to court proceedings. It is difficult enough to get victims of sexual offences to come forward, it’s even harder to get a conviction, and almost impossible without some sort of support. Victims who see these tweets and messages will be discouraged from ever telling their story.