Yesterday, Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson was sentenced to six years imprisonment, following his conviction for child sex offences. On the same day it was also revealed that he had been arrested for possession of extreme pornography involving animals.
There was an enormous amount of evidence to convict him of grooming the 15 year old girl: Whatsapp conversations with the girl where she told him her age, google searches on his computer for ‘age of consent’, asking her to send nude photos, telling her she looked older than 15 and that he wanted ‘more than a kiss’ for giving her signed football t-shirts.
Yet, as ever in this world so intent on disbelieving girls and women, protestations of his innocence and blaming the victim for ‘ruining his life’ have rung loudly: she added him on Facebook, they say, she wanted to meet him, she messaged him – all completely irrelevant when she is a child, legally unable to give consent. The former partner of Johnson’s sister was cautioned after revealing the identity of the child and posting photos of her, while the country’s most widely read newspaper, The Daily Mail, published a column saying she ‘knew exactly what she was doing.’
The child’s psychiatrist has said her client’s mental health has suffered severely as a result of Johnson’s actions, that she has lost weight, started having night terrors and after giving evidence at the trial, it is also reported that she attempted to overdose.
It is little wonder that so few girls and women report their assaults, despite the frequency in which we suffer them. The legal system so rarely fails to gain convictions, and while I do think we should celebrate Johnson’s sentencing as a victory, the extent of the hatred that arises towards victims of such invasive and terrible crimes should be a shock to us all – except it isn’t, because we see it every day.