Rape. It’s a tough subject that most people would rather avoid talking about, but we must.

TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 12: Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus gestures during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Juventus and Club de Atletico Madrid at Allianz Stadium on March 12, 2019 in Turin, . (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY – MARCH 12: Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus gestures during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Juventus and Club de Atletico Madrid at Allianz Stadium on March 12, 2019 in Turin (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Women spend a lot of their time, rightly, worried that they could be raped at any time, in any place, by any man around. It’s a pernicious wariness that most men are completely oblivious of.

By consistently weighting false accusations significantly more heavily than actual rapes, the media has given some men the erroneous belief that they are at as much risk of being falsely accused as women are of being raped, not that the two are even comparable even if they were comparable in their numbers.

They aren’t.

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In fact, men are more likely to be raped themselves than be the victim of a false rape accusation.

But it is that narrative that allowed millions of people and hundreds of publishers to marvel at the ‘wonder’ that is Cristiano Ronaldo as he scored a hattrick for Juventus to secure their passage in the Champions League.

Tuesday night was a tough read in the world of football twitter and for the first time since I signed up for the service a decade ago, I had to shut it down, disgusted at what I was seeing, not from randos on Twitter, but from people I follow.

Hero worship in full flow.

ESPN have done a good job of explaining why there hasn’t been much movement in the latest case against Ronaldo, but it still does not explain why there is such apathy in the world when it comes to the accusations laid at his feet.

It’s like the recent Michael Jackson documentary taught us nothing about taking the alleged crimes of famous people as seriously as the ‘talents’ that made them famous in the first place.

Those who spent most of the weekend outraged over a player being punched by a fan had little to say, either on Tuesday night or back in November when Spiegel released what can only be said to be damming evidence against the Portuguese mega-star.

Saturday’s puncher will spend the next 14 weeks in jail, his life no doubt in complete and utter turmoil for his one moment of madness. He has been held to account, swiftly and harshly, both by society and the legal system. But, then again, he’s not a multi-millionaire able to use expensive lawyers to wear down his accuser and delay the legal process until time runs out.

Ronaldo stands accused not only of raping a woman in 2009 but of admitting to it and paying for her silence. Where there is one there is most likely to be others, I thought to myself, and it didn’t take long to find them.

In 2005, a woman accused Ronaldo of raping her at a luxury London hotel.

Daily Telegraph 20 October 2005
Daily Telegraph 20 October 2005

The Crown Prosecution Service eventually said there was not enough evidence to proceed.

The lawyer dealing with the most recent case admitted he was also investigating claims from three other women.

Scottish Daily Mail, 7 October 2018
Tehran Times, via Daily Mail, 9 October 2018

That’s five women alleging Ronaldo raped or sexually assaulted them.

Is that enough?

How many others have been too afraid to come forward?

And how many does the footballing world need before it stops treating him like a hero?

It’s also hard to talk about the accusations against Ronaldo without acknowledging the Arsenal-shaped elephant in the room – Robin van Persie.

LONDON - DECEMBER 06: Robin van Persie of Arsenal looks on during the training session before their Champions League group stage match against Ajax on December 6, 2005 at London Colney, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON – DECEMBER 06: Robin van Persie of Arsenal looks on during the training session before their Champions League group stage match against Ajax on December 6, 2005 at London Colney, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

It’s easy to be angry at a footballer when he doesn’t wear the shirt of the side you support and I’m as guilty of that as anyone.

I have to hold my hands up. When the RvP allegations were doing the rounds, I didn’t pay that much attention. I can give you one hundred reasons why that was the case, but they are all excuses that highlight yes, perhaps, a different time, but also my own willful ignorance of the issue at the time – and I consider myself fairly enlightened when it comes to this topic.

I’m going to give you what I think were my reasons anyway.

I don’t want to go into the details of that case as much as I want to try and understand my apathy at the time.

Had I it all to do again, I would do it very differently.

It was 2005. The same year the first of five allegations were made against Ronaldo. The charge was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, something most of us at the time were happy to accept meant he was not guilty.

But as I pointed out in my piece about Ronaldo, men are more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than on the wrong end of a false accusation. The media might treat them like they happen with alarming regularity, but they simply do not.

“A statement from Rotterdam’s public prosecutor stated that sexual contact had taken place although no force was involved,” a report on Sky Sports stated. There were no details of how they knew that, but we can all take a guess. They believed him and not her.

14 years is a long time and a lot can change. I was a different gender back then, for a start. Weirdly, it has been in transitioning to male that my feminism has taken on a much more urgent quality than it ever had previously.

Perhaps I want to make up for lost time. Perhaps I know men listen to me more now and think I can maybe make a difference from the inside. Perhaps it’s selfish, that I want to change women’s perception of men because I know that’s how they see me now.

Perhaps I just think it’s the right thing to do.

Perhaps it’s all that and more.

Perhaps, more crucially, I was too lost in my own personal torment of being transgender to truly appreciate the pain anyone else might be suffering.

Or, perhaps, I realise that when women say they have been raped and men say they didn’t do the raping, statistics tell us he is lying, not her, yet the more money or power he has, the more eager society is to gobble up his bullsh*t.

Perhaps I’ve got sick of watching women I love destroyed by the actions of men who are never held to account. Off the top of my head, I can think of four women I know well who have been raped or sexually abused and none of them have seen justice. I know there are more I’m not remembering. They remember. Of that, there is no doubt.

Perhaps I’m sick of the crap excuses, the rape apologists, and the fanboys who believe their enjoyment of a stranger’s skill is more important than the personhood of someone who has been abused.

Whatever it is, perhaps it’s time we stop acting like those with an incentive to lie will always be compelled to tell the truth and ask ourselves, ‘what if all these women are being honest?’

And perhaps, just perhaps, we stop, at the very least, hero-worshipping those who have had these accusations laid at their feet.

Is that really too much to ask?

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by rape or sexual assault and are in need of help, please follow this link to the Rape Crisis Centre (England & Wales). National helplines can be found here for those who do not live in England and Wales.