We live in a time when communication is easier than ever, in an instant every thought you have and care to set down can be broadcast around the world and seen by millions of people. As such there has never been a greater time for finding like-minded individuals around the world, people who share your beliefs or interests. At the same time there has never been a more dangerous time. Instantly any story written about you, true or false can be spread around the Internet. This would be bad enough without the professionally offended jumping on top of the pile and screaming shrilly for you to lose your job, house, money, anything really to see you in ruins.
That is not to say that the people who have committed assaults, rapes harassment etc. should be let off, however what we have now is not a legal system that has any merit what so ever. There has been no trial of Harvey Weinstein, or Kevin Spacey, or anyone else for that matter. Yet their careers lie in tatters and their reputations are destroyed.
My issue is not with the rights and wrongs of the cases. I am barely interested in the truth behind the claims, if the stories are true then they should be punished by the legal system and if not they should be able to carry on with their lives. However, this is in no way possible given the current climate of both media and online feeding frenzy.
The people who shout loudest about justice for these cases are exactly the people that are preventing justice from being done. How could it be possible for a fair trial to occur in these two cases? When every person who has read about the trial will have already made up their minds?
This is an issue that has long been debated, not just for celebrities but for us regular people too. It has long been known that simply being accused of a sexual crime in any society is enough to ruin your reputation forever. This is only growing with the use of social media. The Internet, as we keep telling children, is permanent, whatever you put up on social media is there for everyone to see forever, and so is anything that someone else puts up about you.
There are calls in the UK for the identity of people accused of such crimes to remain anonymous until trial. There is already a lifelong anonymity in place for victims. The issue there is that while the press may not be able to report on such matters, there are no such restrictions on the Internet. It is not possible to silence social media.
In this life you only have your reputation, in a lot of cases. We have seen in recent weeks stories of sexual harassment come out about members of parliament. The handling of these cases, by the labour party, has led to 2 deaths that we know of. There have been allegations of sexual impropriety made against two labour party members, one of them an MP, which have led to them being suspended. They were not told what these allegations were. However, as a result of the way that this situation was handled these two men chose to take their own life. The reasons for this are known only to themselves but the allegations and subsequent ruination of their reputation will have played no small part.
There is also a growing (or rather more frequently reported) trend of false rape allegations being made against men, and more convictions for this practice as well. The issue with this is that there is still huge damage done to the man in this situation who’s face would have been all over the papers throughout the period of investigation and perhaps trial. These false allegations, as we are told frequently by the news, are very rare. This is not the case. The UK national statistics office shows that 10% of these allegations recorded as crimes by the police are subsequently ‘no crimed’.
Let us be clear here. ‘No Crimed’ does not mean that there is not enough evidence to support a conviction or even trial. ‘No Crimed’ means that there is more than enough evidence to show that this did not happen. Also note that the Crown Prosecution Service is able to take cases to court without the victim playing any part. This would be used for example in domestic violence cases where one of the parties no longer wishes to press charges.
I am not saying here that victims shouldn’t be believed. What I am saying however is that the facts need to be reported for good or ill before we can hope to understand the situation and work to fix the problems inherent in the system. Of course that seems like too much work for the current climate and instead we will most likely resort to yelling at our computer screens once again.