‘Now is a critical moment to discuss violence against women’

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  • Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault on Sunday, after incriminating evidence was posted to social media.

    ‘To everyone who wants to know what Mason actually does to me’ captioned a series of now-deleted posts on the woman’s Instagram stories, including graphic images of her injuries and a distressing audio clip of recorded sexual and physical threats.

    Greenwood, 20, was subsequently arrested and taken into custody on Sunday evening, where he has remained until Wednesday when he was released on bail.

    Manchester United has suspended the striker indefinitely, reiterating ‘its strong condemnation of violence of any kind’, Nike has suspended his sponsorship and his teammates have unfollowed him on social media – with the immediacy of such action praised across the board.

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    This has the potential to be a watershed moment for the football community, with the extent of evidence made public forcing the world to react and take a stand.

    When it comes to violence against women, we have seen the sporting world choose to look the other way time and time again. And athletes from Mike Tyson to Marlon King have gone on to forge successful careers, even after being found guilty.

    The football community’s immediate condemnation of Greenwood consequently looks like progress – especially given how much of a leading light he was considered in the game, once described by Man Utd’s Scott McTominay as ‘a talent that comes along probably every 10 years’.

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    It was disappointing therefore to scroll through online comments this week painting Greenwood as the victim.

    From speculation that he was being set up and concerns for his career to criticism of the woman for publicising a private matter, these comments are harmful and they are derailing the conversation. It is because of these comments that some have been discussing who could have framed the footballer, rather than discussing the domestic violence epidemic in the UK.

    This was fortified by a divisive statement from the woman’s father, the second part of which takes focus away from the actual case and in my opinion twists the narrative.

    ‘She has told us her phone has been hacked. We told her to take it down, which she has done but it’s out there now so it is too late. She is devastated because she didn’t want it released,’ reads the second part of the statement, via the Daily Mail. ‘We have known him since the under 21s. He has been part of our family for two or three years. Their relationship has not been good for the last few months. She is completely devastated by it all. They were very much in love and have been together for a while. The police are dealing with it now.’

    This statement is problematic for many reasons, but chiefly because it completely deflects attention from the conversation we should be having.

    In one short paragraph, the violence has been rationalised as part of their turbulent relationship and the focus has been taken away from the abuse and put on the hacking.

    Perhaps her phone was hacked, but does that really change anything about the investigation? Either way, there was alleged evidence of assault and domestic violence on her phone – we should be focusing on that, rather than how the information was released.

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    Violence against women is an epidemic in the UK, especially within the football community where domestic abuse rates have been known to surge by 38% when a team loses. How it reacts to the arrest of such a high profile player therefore has the potential to influence millions of people watching across the world. Domestic violence is a very real problem and now is an opportunity to send a clear public message.

    Mason Greenwood’s arrest could become a catalyst for change and a defining moment for football, but in order to achieve this we need to talk about domestic violence and take a united stand against it.

    The world is having important conversations as a result of this investigation and progress is within sight. But we cannot allow harmful comments to turn the story into a ‘He Said She Said’ narrative or deflect attention away from the alleged abuse.

    Domestic violence should never be tolerated, excused or normalised and we cannot afford to derail what inevitably could be a watershed moment for football.

    If you are experiencing domestic abuse or are worried about someone you know, contact the free 24-hour National Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. If you are in an emergency situation, please call 999.

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