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Accusers Can Have an Arsenal of Evidence--Football Fans Still Won't Believe Them

Before reading, please note that this blog entry contains descriptions of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Professional footballers/soccer players have long engaged in violence against women, only to face few, if any, consequences. Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that accuser Kathryn Mayorga repeatedly told him “no” and “stop,” yet he still has faced no consequences–legal or professional–for this act he insists was consensual, but which fits the legal definition of rape. There are some exceptions to the rule that footballers fully escape the consequences of their actions, however.

Early this year, Mason Greenwood of Manchester United was accused of domestic violence by Harriet Robson. Robson produced an audio recording of being raped, in addition to photo and video evidence of her injuries from physical abuse. For now, Greenwood is no longer a member of any team and has lost his Nike sponsorship. Ryan Giggs, a former Manchester United player and then-manager of the Wales football club, was arrested in 2020 for abusing his partner and assaulting his sister; he is expected to be tried in August. Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City has been accused by five women who say he raped them between October 2020 and August 2021. He is also expected to face trial in August.

On 28 July, a Twitter user said that she was raped on two occasions by Thomas Partey, her now former boyfriend, and a current player for Arsenal football club. The second of these rapes occurred in the summer of 2021. When Partey was accused by a different woman early in 2022, it was this survivor's allegations that gave the Metropolitan Police (often called the Met) grounds to arrest him. On Twitter, she stated that it was Benjamin Mendy's arrest that gave her the courage to speak with the police.

Still awaiting indictment for his actions, Partey has faced no lasting consequences as a player for Arsenal. The football club’s safeguarding policy only protects children and other “vulnerable person[s].” At the time of the rape, the Twitter user was over 18 years old. Consequently, although Arsenal, the FA, and the premier league said that they would take her allegations seriously, Partey was not considered a true “risk.” Policies such as these are one reason that footballers continue to escape punishment from their clubs. Only when the second accuser came forward was Partey briefly suspended. After he was released by the police, however, he was allowed to resume playing for Arsenal.

When one of her rape cases was dropped on a legal technicality, the survivor decided to face the financial and social consequences of speaking out. She posted screenshots, photographs, and video over this past weekend which all appeared to be genuine and to corroborate her story. As an ardent Amber Heard supporter, this survivor knew the blowback she would experience and took the risk, anyway. Victim-blamers jumped to critcize her decision to return to Partey after the first rape, but returning to abusers and remaining with them after the abuse has begun is typical among domestic abuse survivors. The average survivor is only able to leave their abuser for good upon their seventh attempt.

This survivor's coming forward was met with victim-blaming, unfavorable comparisons to Amber Heard, attacks on her identity, encouragement to complete suicide, and statements that she deserved to be raped. In addition, Partey’s supporters continually pressured her to name other women with stories about Partey’s misconduct; she steadfastly refused to do so. On July 29th, she attempted suicide due to the harassment, but thankfully survived. Survivors Be Heard is grateful for her courage and looks forward to continuing to support her in any way she might ask of us. When she is free to speak without risk of hurting the investigation or prosecution of Partey, we will be here and ready to share her story in greater detail.

If you are reading this post and were assaulted and/or abused by Thomas Partey, we encourage you to contact the Met. It may feel like it, now, but you are not alone. In the three days between first speaking out and shutting her account, the Twitter survivor said she received support from lawyers and members of Parliament. We are also here for you.

Survivors Be Heard takes the stance of believing allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault by default. False accusations are uncommon (between 2 and 10% of all rape accusations in the U.S., according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and only 47% of sexual assaults are even reported to the police) and those statistics include accusations for which prosecutors decline to pursue a case. Not all of these “false” accusations, therefore, are truly false. It is also evident that sexual assault and domestic violence survivors often face re-victimization when coming forward; this is even more true when the allegations are made against a public figure. Based on what we have heard from other survivors, recent events are causing them to hesitate further before sharing their stories.

Nevertheless, please note that Survivors Be Heard is expressing our opinion, based on currently available evidence. Each of the footballers named in this blog has made or will make known their version of events, as is their right.

Blog cover image posted to Twitter on 28 July 2022. It is a Polaroid of Thomas Partey believed to have been taken on the night of the second rape.

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