I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed or assaulted. For every woman who is harassed, there has to be at least one man doing it. If you do some quick maths, that implicates a hell of a lot of men.
I can understand why allegations that come to light through social media can appear tenuous, and it is true that legally, people are innocent until proven guilty. While I agree that the ideal scenario ends in these men being taken to court and convicted, the ideal scenario is just that.
The law is not always impartial and I can understand why women choose not to subject themselves to the pain and futility of pursuing sexual assault allegations through a court of law.
Focusing on the fact that these men are innocent until proven guilty implies that no allegation is valuable unless it ends in some kind of confession or, legally, in conviction. If men, like James Franco, say that the allegations ‘aren’t accurate’, is that it? Do we automatically take their word for it? The importance of believing women is paramount in cases of sexual assault, because when it turns into a case of he-said, she-said, his word has more weight because we live in a patriarchy.
To imply that these allegations are unjust unless these men are proven guilty in a court of law is to seriously misjudge the extent to which the justice system is influenced by misogyny. I agree that in an ideal, equal world, all these men would be brought to trial and found guilty. The reality for many victims of sexual assault couldn’t be more different. In every thousand cases of rape, thirteen of those go to court and seven of them end in conviction. When you compare that with the fact that the Home Office estimates that only 4% of rape cases are falsely reported, it starts to illuminate the institutional issues that prevent women from pursuing traditional methods of justice.
Brock Turner, a man who raped an unconscious woman in 2016, was sentenced to six months in prison. He served three. It is worth noting that he was referred to as ‘promising Stanford Swimmer’ throughout the trial, which is reminiscent of lamenting the ruined careers of men like Weinstein. His accuser was subjected to vicious questioning which involved the implication that because she had called her boyfriend earlier in the night, she was operating on a vaginal open all hours buffet policy, in which because she wanted to have sex with her boyfriend, she must have therefore been willing to have sex with anyone. Brock Turner is requesting a new trial. Ultimately, both Turner and the judge who sentenced him so lightly don’t see what is so morally repugnant in his actions.
The law is not always impartial and I can understand why women choose not to subject themselves to the pain and futility of pursuing sexual assault allegations through a court of law. Justice can be elusive for victims of sexual assault and I think that we can forgive them for taking matters into their own hands. These men may never be convicted but it can only be a good thing that men like Harvey Weinstein are no longer torturing young women, whether he is behind bars or not. When we have a legal system that women can trust I will champion it until the end of my days. In the mean time let’s hope that the Twitter revelations of these courageous women help to bring about real change that extends to all aspects of our sick, patriarchal society, including the justice system.