There sure have been a lot of people coming forth about harassment incidents and acts of sexual misconduct; some of them took place over several decades. The unsettling thing is, many outsiders have judged the validity of the incidents based on who the accused person is. That bothers me. A lot. I put myself in the shoes of the victim. It’s hard enough to come forth; but it’s doubly hurtful when there are people who step up in support of the accused, most of whom were not even present when the incident took place. People are supporting the accused based solely on reputation.
For each perpetrator — more or less — there have been a handful of supporters standing behind them. I get that a person’s reputation and their standing in the community could be sufficient enough grounds to add to or take away from a person’s credibility; reputation can also create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury members if the case ends up in a criminal or civil court. That’s one reason why it can take such a long time to select the jury panel in some cases. It can take weeks or even months in some instances to get the “right” jury panel. The prosecutor wants jury members who can empathize with the victim. The defense wants jury members who can empathize with the accused. Depending on the particular case, you can have thousands of potential jurors in the pool. To date, the largest jury pool was for the trial of James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado in 2015. The jury pool was 9000 people. He was convicted of multiple counts of murder for killing guests at a movie theater. By comparison, the O.J. Simpson case brought in 1000 potential jurors. He was acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
The identity of the perpetrator can have a huge impact on the jury selection process, because people have strong feelings of love or hate for them. When their minds are already made up even before they see or hear any evidence, it can be challenging to get the right mix of 12 people (and juror alternates).
I have heard many people speak out for and against Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, and most surprisingly, R. Kelly, surprising because his alleged victims were minors. In contrast, I have yet to hear anybody speak out to support Steve Harvey Steve Harvey Accused of Sexual Harassment. Some have said his personae is that of someone who likely had done what he was accused of doing. Others have said his book on relationships and intimacy reveals things about the way in which he has treated women in the past, which adds weight to the accusations launched against him. I didn’t read the book myself, so I can’t speak to it. (Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Expanded Edition: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment). But regardless – whether good or bad – I don’t believe a person’s life and past should play a role in believability.
It seems unfair treatment when a victim accuses someone with a “dog” reputation and that victim is immediately believed, but if an alleged abuser/harasser is someone who has a straight-laced background, there is a lot of scrutiny, skepticism, and doubt that the incidents really occurred. Imagine how the victims feel. Even someone trusted and respected can deceive you. The same is true of the victim. You have a victim who is well-respected, will that person be more quickly believed than someone who is of ill repute? Unfortunately, that’s how society functions. Your character and reputation carry a lot of weight, much more than it should. Even a seemingly good guy can be a predator — I suppose they call such folks a sociopath.
What if you were the victim and people said things like, “Nah, I don’t believe it.” How would you feel if your associate Michael had abused you and people were saying, “No, the Michael I know wouldn’t have done anything like that.” I’ve learned that we don’t always know people as well as we may think we do, even the ones closest to us. Just look at Judas. He was one of the 12 disciples, one of Jesus’ closest friends and advisors; he wasn’t the man Jesus thought he was. Judas betrayed him.
As an aside, let me throw this in here. There are instances in which people get falsely accused of heinous acts. Therefore, I can understand people’s hesitance to always believe someone who presents themselves as a victim. Just look at the Tawana Brawley case. She falsely accused some men of assaulting her, raping her. If you don’t know about or can’t remember that case, do a search. Then there was the case of Susan Smith, a Caucasian woman who fabricated a story about a black man carjacking her and ultimately causing the deaths of her children when she in fact was the sole cause of her own children’s death. There are plenty other similar cases of people being falsely blamed for things.
The moral of my post here is, don’t be so quick to condemn someone – or to support someone – before you have all the facts. We talk about the concept of having blind justice, meaning embracing fairness and equity when it comes to vetting out accusations of those funneled through the criminal justice system. That’s the context of how that term surfaced. But it’s funny how we don’t embrace that notion in our day-to-day lives. What a hypocrisy. I’ve found that many people are superb liars. They’re great at it. They may try and twist the truth and have you question your own memory. But don’t get sucked in. Let the facts speak for themselves. Make Lady Justice keep her blindfold on.