As the #MeToo movement gains momentum and continues to expose a prevalent, longtime culture of sexual assault in our workplaces and academic institutions, we must face the realization that we live in a world which still favours the perpetrators of sexual violence.
The accused are often believed more than their accusers.
I am not suggesting that the presumption of innocence is not important when someone has been accused of sexual assault. However, when overwhelming evidence exists, public perception still casts doubts about someone’s perceived guilt.
Harvey Weinstein, the face of the #MeToo era, currently has over 30 accusers. Bill Cosby has over 60 accusers. More recently, and prior to being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh was publicly accused by three women.
The thing that these men all have in common, besides being outed as sexual predators, is that they are all presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. As a result, the expectation is that we are to first cast doubt and question the credibility of victims, even when multiple victims are present.
The nature of sexual assault is that it is often a crime without any hard evidence. The only evidence, in many cases, is the testimony of victims, and the usual denial of the perpetrators.
There are no shortage of people who feel that men caught up in the #MeToo spotlight are innocent. It begs the question: at what point do we believe victims? Bill Cosby has 60 accusers. How many accusers does one need in order for the evidence to suggest that they are more than likely guilty in some way? 100 accusers? 500 accusers?
Due process is incredibly important for both the victims and those accused of sexual assault. Timely and accurate investigations are crucial in obtaining facts and information when attempting to establish credibility. In this case, absent of the facts, the preponderance of evidence would suggest that Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Brett Kavanaugh do have a history of sexual misconduct against women, based solely on the number of accusers who have come forward.
While that alone does not indicate guilt, it is certainly enough to draw doubt about each man’s credibility as it pertains to his own testimony.
We must believe victims. Coming forward as a victim of sexual violence takes tremendous courage and inner strength. It does nothing to serve or glorify the accuser. In fact, it is often a painful and traumatic experience for an individual to recount.
The presumption of innocence is a crucial right when an individual has been accused of a serious crime. However, at some point in both public perception and due process we have to ask ourselves if someone’s presumed innocence is undeniably more important than the truths of numerous victims.
As it stands, a severe lack of common sense only serves to embolden perpetrators and further silence victims, many of whom stand alone.