DAVID Goodwillie won’t be the only rapist playing in the SPFL. Violence against women, and indeed sexual violence, is a commonplace. I’m sure at every level in the Scottish football pyramid, men who have committed sexual assaults, pressured or coerced women into sex, maybe obtaining tokenistic consent, maybe not, will run up and down pitches taking the jeers and cheers of loyal supporters every week. The reporting rate is low, and the conviction rate lamentable.

The difference with Goodwillie is that we know that he is guilty. One judge took a long time to listen to dozens of witnesses, and found him guilty. Three more judges heard his appeal and threw it out. In full, four judges listened to everything he said, looked at the evidence, and branded him a rapist and a liar. How we respond to him indicates our response to all the ­other sexual offernders, as yet ­unidentified and unconvicted.

The ongoing career of an ­unrepentant rapist, and his signing by a significant club in Raith Rovers, is perhaps the very extreme edge of a sexism that exists through the entirety of Scottish football. It is a sexism that has for a long time gone remarked upon but seldom challenged, and certainly never quashed.

Yet the shear scalding white heat of disapproval to the signing of ­Goodwillie, from women and men both in the game and beyond it, feels significant. It feels like a shifting of the tectonic plates, where the old sexist norms of Scottish football can be challenged meaningfully.

Football can be a great engine for ­cultural challenge and change. We’ve seen that with work combatting racism in our communities. Years of work put in by such groups as Show Racism the Red Card, and the ongoing protest whereby players take the knee before games in solidarity with race-based inequalities do have a cumulative impact. We’ve haven’t driven racism out the game, but we have marginalised it.

My own club Dundee United have a strict anti-racism policy which is printed out and hung visibly at reception. The players take the knee before every match. Our old club captain and Hall-of-Famer Sean Dillon (above) was granted an award for his long-standing efforts to work with our community to drive out racism as an everyday belief.

When Jeando Fuchs, our French-Cameroonian midfielder thought he heard a racist slur aimed at him from a Ross County supporter, the club kicked into gear. The manager backed him to the hilt at full time and the club gathered all the witnesses they could to get to the bottom of it.

Racist thoughts will exist within the United support, no doubt. But it is ­constantly reiterated that it is not ­welcome in Tannadice and not reflective of the club or support. This message is sent by the directors, the playing staff, the manager and the supporters.

A similar stand needs taken against sexism. And this feels like the moment. And the reality is, a stand is exactly what is needed, to begin the long journey to equality for women within football.

Me and my partner went along to Dens Park for the Dundee Derby last midweek. Of the 11,273 supporters in the stadium – more than 10% of Dundee’s population – hardly any were female. Despite this, at the half time break she had to join a queue of about nine women trying to get access to the single cubicle toilet that served our part of the stand. I ­successfully nipped in for a pee in the commodious gents’, queued for a pie, paid and took a first bite before my partner got to the front of the short queue. By such limited ­facilities, Dens Park tells women “This place is not for you. You’re not welcome.” It is architectural sexism, repeated at grounds across Scotland.

Then there are the chants. “You know she said yes, David ­Goodwillie, you know she said yes.” was heard in the stands at Pittodrie, before being booed down by fellow Dons.

“He’ll shag who he wants” chanted at Ched Evans, who was charged – then much later aquitted – with rape in ­England.

Further along the spectrum is the gauntlet of sexual assault women run in concourses and, in my experience, on supporters’ buses. I have spoken to fellow fans who have been sexually assaulted while travelling to games. Sometimes there were witnesses, but there’s never been organised support for the victims, or organised means of expelling the ­offenders. We need to find a way to offer structured solidarity.

Male-heavy environments can absol­utely be great fun. I enjoy playing five a sides, or sitting in largely male pubs very much indeed.

Male-dominant spaces can be socially useful. They can provide safe spaces for men to open up emotionally in ways they feel restricted from elsewhere. Issues like mental health and suicide have been and continue to be tackled within football, and the male-heavy makeup of the fans likely aids these projects. We feel safe “amongst our own”.

But we’re guilty when in these spaces of allowing anti-woman “banter” to pass by. We need to be consciously creating a space where women can feel ­comfortable and be safe. At the moment, we’re not doing that loudly enough or ­consistently enough. We won’t lose anything by ­removing the threat women feel when they come to a match.

The National: Val McDermid was at the forefront of the storm of protest over Raith Rovers' decision to sign David Goodwillie

The backlash against Goodwillie has been strong and sustained, and resulted in his banishment from Raith Rovers. A small but stirring victory. It was one won with women at the vanguard. Nicola Sturgeon and Val McDermid, the captain of Raith Rovers ladies Tyler Rattray and others, who immediately and aggressively acted to condemn the signing of the ­sexual offender, regardless of any blowback they themselves might have received.

They were then backed up by a strong tide of male allies. I found this ­particularly moving. Club media, club volunteers, men who have given a ­tremendous amount to Raith Rovers, who completely love it, were completely ready to down tools and walk away without a second thought.

Two guys I listen to often on a podcast called The Terrace spoke ­sincerely on the subject. They have been ­supporting Raith Rovers for many ­decades. Both have volunteered ­extensively with the club in various ­capacities and both did the usual ­diehard fan thing of emptying their wallets and hearts into the club, and filling their weekends with watching the action and dissecting it on their podcast.

Both had signalled their intent to never watch their club again as long as ­Goodwillie was there. Their Saturdays would lose their passion. Their friendships and wide networks within the club would rot. Their podcast material would be done for. It was a really significant ­personal sacrifice on a point of principle.

It might not sound a lot to you, but to football folk, that is a huge statement of support.

I am duty-bound to also point out the murky underside of the response. There was a strong undercurrent of disapproval of the smiting of Goodwillie. It was one I followed online in supporters forums on Facebook and in long Twitter threads. Let me give you a flavour, and a context.

In 2010, Dundee United won the ­Scottish Cup. Goodwillie, a livewire young player full of future promise, picked up a clearance about 40 yards from goal. Spotting the opposing keeper off his line, he struck an audacious chip right over the entire retreating defence and the despairing keeper – 1-0 United, and 30,000 Dundee United die hards go mental in the springtime sunshine. It was and is a hugely significant moment in the club’s history, and a very happy memory for many. The match still gets referred to by some as “The Goodie Final” in ­memory of the strike.

I witnessed an unwillingness to engage in the reality of the rape conviction from some, who cherish the memory so highly. There were calls by single fans online to go and re-sign Goodwillie from Clyde in a hope of recapturing some of that ­magic from 11 years ago. The most ­recent controversy did not incite ­universal ­disapproval amongst the support. Many seemed happy to let the past be the past. Goodwillie’s legacy certainly sparks ­debate amongst fans, but his behaviour is seldom outright condemned.

There are supporters of many teams who would sign him, provided he scored goals. Even at Raith Rovers, 1000 fans still turned up to watch the first game Goodwillie could have appeared in last midweek.

Sexual violence and prevalent sexism is not yet seen as anathema within football.

I think – I hope – that this is a learning moment. One that shows how we can work together, at many levels of society, to reject the normalised violence against women that exists both in football and in wider society.

We’ve got rid of Goodwillie. Fine. Good. But the buildings still exclude women. The women’s teams remain under-resourced and without fanbases. The supporter’s buses remain dangerous spaces for women. Female journalists still can’t work without endemic harassment. Our game is still an ecosystem where abusers can thrive.

With wise women leading the charge, and men willing to make sacrifices and put their head above the parapet on these difficult topics, a shift can be made. The ultimate ambition, of a safe and equal society, is a long way off. The Goodwillie signing made that clear.

But his removal is a statement of strength. A difference can be made. The leaders are there, and so are the many allies ready to stand behind them.

The Rape Crisis Scotland helpline is open every day from 6pm – midnight for anyone affected by sexual violence. You can call 08088 01 03 02, text 07537 410 027 or email support@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk.