When #MeToo Comes for Your Kids
False accusations do long-lasting damage
TopicsJustice Pop Culture
In the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony during Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings, her supporters exhorted us to “Believe Women.” That phrase became a rallying cry against sexual assault generally and Kavanaugh specifically.
What does it mean to “Believe Women”? In its most basic sense, it means that we are to take any and every woman’s accusation of sexual assault against any and every man as an article of faith: She’s a woman; she speaks the Gospel truth.
While no Catholic in his right mind should diminish or brush off accusations of sexual assault, we must acknowledge that false accusations do long-lasting damage. Think of Brian Banks, a highly recruited high-school football player who signed a letter of intent to enroll at USC, a Pac-12 powerhouse. After being accused — and convicted — of sexual assault, he spent more than five years in prison and five years in custody parole. He never played a down for the Trojans.
But 10 years later, Banks’s conviction was overturned: His accuser admitted she had fabricated the story. In the interim, Banks’s promising career was derailed. He lost out on possible fame, loads of money, and a potentially enduring gridiron legacy. This innocent man’s life was turned upside-down at age 17, its course completely altered, because a woman was “believed” — wrongly.
In a more recent case, a woman was shopping at a convenience store in Brooklyn when she thought she was inappropriately touched by…a 9-year-old boy. A bystander caught the woman, whom he dubbed Cornerstore Caroline, on camera calling 911. “I want the cops here right now!” she yelled into her phone. “That’s right, the son grabbed my a**!”
The store’s surveillance footage told a different story. The boy, who was shopping with his mother and sister, passed by Cornerstore Caroline, who was leaning over the counter, when his backpack brushed up against her, unbeknownst to him. He didn’t “grab” any part of her.
After viewing the surveillance footage, the woman recanted and apologized.
Yes, victims of sexual assault need to be able to make credible accusations without fear of repercussions or shaming. They must be able to seek redress and the restoration of justice. But is it just to throw out due process, as codified in article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense”?
Imagine there were no surveillance footage to countermand Cornerstore Caroline’s insistence on having been violated. Should we believe her simply because she’s a woman? And what of the boy? Are we to sacrifice him to honor our belief in women as unassailable truth-tellers?
If “believing women” means we must disbelieve men, then we must presume men — and even little boys! — to be guilty by default. And that could easily result in a miscarriage of justice, as was the case with Brian Banks, not its furtherance.
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