Too Soon?

I’ve written about this concern before (I was going to use the word “touched”, but that brings up such wrong images): reading all the news about sexual harassment claims against this politician or that actor or this entertainment executive or that comedian, I’m beginning to worry about when we are crossing into McMartin Preschool territory. Those not familiar with the reference should read the link given.

Basically, the concern is distinguishing real claims from misremembered claims: for those cases where someone is accused of sexual harrassment or impropriety, and does not admit to the charge. Certainly, if the person admits to the charge, then the community response is appropriate (in addition to any permissible legal claims). If they don’t admit, however, before we rush to the closet to get out the tar and feathers, we should investigate the claims to make sure they are valid. I’m not attempting to say those making accusations are all liars — far from it. Most are likely valid and remembering something. But there will be some who will misremember (often out of media hysteria (another word we need to replace)), and a few who will making the claims for other purposes. Much as it might be in our nature to assume the worst — so easy and schadenfreude-ish to believe they did it — our country is based on law and evidence. If there is no acceptance of guilt, there should be corroboration to substantiate the claim. [ETA: This could include, by the way, clear patterns of behavior over many years against multiple parties. I’m more worried about the onsie-twosie cases, with no clear pattern or history of behavior.]

It is so easy to assume everyone is evil, but students of history can point to many time where accusations were made — and people’s lives irreparably harmed — when there was no basis for the accusation. We owe it to all involved to investigate the claim as if it were true, but be willing to not act on the claim if that investigate cannot confirm anything. Yes, this means that some guilty people will get away with their past behavior.  I think — I hope — that we would rather have that happen occasionally than to be putting innocent people in prison and destroying their careers. Further, the accusation will often increase scrutiny, reducing the likelihood of that behavior happening again (or if it does, it being caught with evidence).

(Note that for a number of these accusations, the public can choose to take actions on their own. If studios don’t choose to stop the release of a movie, just don’t go to it. Don’t vote for the person. Don’t buy products that make them money. The public does have some power.)

(ETA a later thought: And, if you are accused and you did do something: admit exactly what you did, and take the consequences. We teach our children that actions have consequences for a reason and they must tell the truth, and you set a bad example when you think you are above what your parents taught you).