It is with some trepidation that I write this letter, but I feel it is something that must be said given the current climate surrounding our social and political norms. I write with trepidation, knowing that some will categorically box me as a Nazi, misogynist, rape-enabler — none of which I am. I do not write this letter as part of any collective, class or political identity, rather I write it as an individual.
In the last year, the #MeToo movement has gained momentum; it has called out a number of individuals on dastardly crimes and brought them to face society at large for their unwanted deeds. Some of these attackers have been high profile, and some have been co-workers down the hall that outside of the local community no one was aware.
The recent accusations brought against Brett Kavanaugh, have shed a light on something sinister that lies within the #MeToo movement, and I’m not talking about false accusations. (Nor am I defending Brett Kavanaugh, as I feel his position on the Fourth Amendment is damning.) Much of the hoopla surrounding Kavanaugh is due to the 24-hour news cycle regurgitating experts at any given moment and the fact that everyone on social media is an expert.
Across social media, we have begun to see more hashtags, born of the #MeToo movement that pertains to sexual assault and victimhood in general. We have seen things like, “#IBelieveWomen,” “#IStandWithVictims,” “#IstandWithChristineBlaiseyFord,” and any number of permutations therein. When we use labels like these, we sweep away any middle ground for discussion; we create a wide array of implications, some more nefarious than others and in turn, they create an extreme polarization. We imply that those who ask questions about a particular assault, don’t believe women, don’t support victims and don’t care about sexual assault in general, all of which are egregiously incorrect. These hashtags also imply that we do not need to dig any deeper than the victim to find the truth, that the truth lies in the mouth of the accuser. Sadly, people do lie about sexual assault, and sometimes, despite positive ID of an assailant and a conviction, DNA evidence later exonerates the accused (that is not to say these are false allegations, just false convictions of someone who was not purposefully misidentified.) Unfortunately, the misguided nature of these hashtags does not stop there.
Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes. One that no one could rationalize with any real sense of justice. It is unfortunate that sexual assault often occurs with very few, if any witnesses but, it must be treated the same as any other crime. Unfortunately, we must side with the accused until there is ample evidence that they are, in fact, the guilty party. We cannot accept the word of one individual as the penultimate evidence against the accused. This quickly takes us down a dark slope of hysteria similar to that of McCarthyism, were accusations are used against those with whom we disagree. These hashtags ignore this fact. They suggest that simple allegation is the equivalent of guilt. They suggest that by being a victim, your testimony is infallible. This is unacceptable.
In my suggesting this, I do not believe all accused are innocent, I am not implying sexual assault victims are liars, nor am I belittling their trauma. I am suggesting that before we attach all-encompassing hashtags and beliefs to every allegation, we step back and reevaluate. We take into account that sometimes, we get things wrong, and it is wholly unjust to accuse an innocent individual to assuage a victim’s fears no matter how terrifying they may be.