Though it occurred decades ago, it infuriates me, still.
Someone with whom I was close had suffered both verbal and physical sexual harassment at her workplace. The perpetrator was a co-owner of a small business and a social and political climber.
His family was affluent. Various members were active in local Democratic political and church-related activities.
They were a sterling example of a phenomenon most foul: superficially redoubtable “pillars of the community.” Promoters of liberal, feminist messages who beamed for publicity cameras all the while knowingly enabling-through-shielding a family member who perpetrated horrific assaults on vulnerable, lower class female employees.
My friend begged me to not confront the assaulter, insisting formal remedies alone be pursued. I respected her wish; sexual harassers, on the other hand, do not respect victims’ autonomy.
I remember her personal torment, her many sessions with assault survivors’ counselors, and the secret court settlement. Through his legal team, the predatory perpetrator demanded a confidentiality agreement. His disgusting crimes were forever concealed.
No newspaper carried any account, nor do trial records exist. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I know it did.
But, I understand my knowledge does not make it true for general observers. No man should suffer punishment until guilt for a misdeed has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.
A man’s liberty, reputation and ability to earn a living should never fall owing to rumors or unsubstantiated allegations. Sincerely detesting criminality does not necessitate uncritical acceptance of each allegation.
The accused’s rights are not obviated by the egregiousness of an allegation or the number of accusers.
All who allege victimization deserve to be heard, and their stories should be thoroughly investigated. But they do not warrant unquestioning credence. An accusation is not a conviction.
Freedom and good name are precious. They must never be taken from a man merely for claims unsubstantiated, or so a juror or random observer might parade their correctness on a larger issue.
An argument frequently proffered by opponents of Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore is the presumption of innocence is applicable exclusively in courtrooms and need not be observed beyond them.
I would assert that standard’s spirit should inform casual social opinions as well. Those straining against it are as good as declaring preference for a less rigorous rule that indulges disinclination toward fair play, respectfulness and equality.
“It is better that ten guilty men escape than that one innocent man suffer” is a phrase historians attribute to Blackstone. Blackstone’s fine enunciation of the principle perhaps had its roots in Genesis 18:23-32:
“Abraham drew near and said: ‘Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it?...What if ten are found there?’ He [the Lord] said: ‘I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.’”
The fate of Sodom was their subject of discussion. The Bible tells us that Sodom was ultimately destroyed, though only after God had rescued most of Lot’s family.
As various sex crimes are imputed to powerful political, entertainment and news media figures on a seemingly daily schedule, observance of presumptive innocence aptly differentiates the certain from the speculative. For instance, Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose have all conceded culpability.
But Roy Moore and President Trump have merely been accused, with no substantiating evidence offered for independent consideration. Each man has denied allegations. They are, then, to be considered wholly innocent.
True righteousness provides accommodation for both anger at those whose guilt has been officially established and due respect for those free from such bench conclusion.