This one’s more touchy than yesterday’s post, but I want to express my thoughts on it: The recent sexual harassment stories we’re reading in the national news.
How sad it is that these men and women were able to abuse and intimidate so many people, especially women, for so many years, while others turned away? I believe that when someone’s call for help is ignored, when we turn a blind eye and look away, we are committing an act of cruelty. We are telling them that we do not recognize their value as human beings. I understand that there are often hindrances involved, but I feel that the only way we can prevent these acts from taking place is to support the survivor in their claim.
If we make it understood that sexually assaulting someone will definitely lead to legal issues for the assailant, that the survivor of that assault will be heard rather than shunned, we could make significant headway in curtailing such abuses. We would, at the very least, take away the guarantee of invisibility, which could have a chilling effect on those who would engage in such behaviors.
At the same time, I cannot stress enough how concerned I am with how <em>fast</em> the fallout is coming from these occurrences. Not that sexual assault survivors are coming forward, I am gratified to see the stigma of sexual assault starting to lose hold, but what does concern me is the swift action taking against those accused. They’re losing their jobs, their friends, family, their reputations are being utterly destroyed all in the blink of an eye.
It feels satisfying, for many, to see justice served, but the thing is that justice has yet to be served. It is of vital importance that these people get a fair trial, that they are afforded all the rights necessary to produce a result that is correct, and not just something that feels good. Our news media isn’t going to stop and fact check everything, if anything, before tossing up the next salacious accusation for all to see across the world.
As a result, there will come a point where an innocent party will be skewered, and will still fall to the mob mentality of public opinion “justice.” Mob “justice” is seldom nuanced, and almost always cruel. In the United States, we once had a history of public lynchings, where the accused was found guilty with little evidence, but a heaping dose of community anger and outrage.
I cannot stress how careful we must be here, because we live in a nation of professional outrage. The far reaching effects of social media can kill a career, a life, a reputation, with just a single shout that spreads across the entire platform. Suicides will happen as human beings face throngs of angry commenters, who will not keep it strictly on social media.
Isn’t that the saddest irony? I think so. In our zeal for justice, we engage in cruel, bloodthirsty behavior, before all of the details are in. Before the court date has been set, people have been tried, and found guilty, in the court of public opinion, and their places of business, their employers, these organizations aren’t waiting for a “guilty/not guilty” verdict, they’re acting now, and I believe they’re doing so to our mutual disadvantage.
Accusations are easy. Gathering proper evidence is less so. I want the accusers to be heard, but I want the accused tried fairly, and in as equitable a fashion as possible. Anything less, and we’re just replacing one assault with another, more far reaching one.
I realize this may seem like I’m taking the side of the accused, and in one sense I am. If we do not protect the accused as much as the accuser (and they should both be protected and with full exercise of their rights), then we become no better than the lynch mobs of our past, meting out our own brand of justice to salve our collective souls.
On the other hand, however, I am also protecting the rights of the accusers. Consider this: given the speed and ferocity with which the news media is pushing out these stories, how much time until a number of them are proven false? Whether due to personal vendettas, retribution, or just good old lack of fact checking on the part of the news, there will come a point where a series of accusations will either be found false, or lacking in evidence. When that time comes, how will public sentiment shift? Human beings are fickle, more so in this day and age where our attention spans have become so short as to require constant reminders that there is a world around us.
I can see sentiments shifting back to that cloak of invisibility again, where it’s better not to see it happening, to just ignore it once more. The blow back would be severe, and would cause greater harm to those who desperately need to get their story out.
So we can be better than this. We MUST be better than this. We cannot be cruel to be kind. We cannot call cruelty “justice,” or “tough love.” We cannot indict human beings without allowing them the ability to defend themselves.
We must learn empathy, we require compassion. Cruelty should have no place in the system, but it does. It holds a prized place, and I fear it will become the hallmark of our society. I believe that we’re already on a path where cruelty is seen as a “necessary evil,” and that prospect worries me because rights are easily eroded when people are given license to act cruelly in the name of the common good.
Those acts cause us to jump too quickly, to condemn too strongly, and as a result people pay, sometimes with their very lives, and when that happens, what is the excuse we will use to extricate ourselves from that moral quandary? It was for the public good? Maybe. I mean, that would soothe the consciences of most, but for the rest of us, we would know better. We would know the truth.
Just my two bits for today. May the Goddess bless you.