I am of the mind that the #MeToo movement has done significant damage to our culture and what little confidence we had in our system of justice. If one needs proof, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono has eagerly provided it. Nearly hysterical, during a testy press interview she confidently instructed those who cared to listen, “Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.”¹ In full support of the Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh’s accuser, Senator Hirono went on to inform us, “Not only do women like Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford, who bravely comes forward need to be heard, but they need to be believed…They need to be believed!” So important was her message, Senator Hirono chose not to disclose that it was in fact fellow Senator Dianne Feinstein who had leaked Dr. Ford’s identity, violating her promise to not involve her or disclose her name to anyone.
Not only has the movement been selective in choosing the victims it celebrates, it has brought to our campuses the foolishness of safe-spaces, speech codes, and the introduction of the use of hot cocoa and cuddly stuffed toy animals to comfort our young distraught and defenseless victims. With remarkable and apparently seamless efficiency, it shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused. In many ways, having done so, it rebirthed a mindset last experienced in America in the mid-19th century, when women were also widely considered defenseless and powerless. Though that movement gave way to the Progressive Era along with calls for temperance, women’s education, suffrage, and moral purity. The Dress Reform movement called for emancipation from the “dictates of fashion,” freeing not only the body, but the mind, and one’s choice of dress.
Cultural changes have never been easy. Looking back, many of those changes were necessary and appropriate. Who today, would oppose a woman’s right to vote, wear pants, or ride a bicycle? But not all shifts and cultural changes are healthy, nor do they all produce good. If one is truly rational, shouldn’t he or she still ask should all victims be believed and is our society better when we insist the accused must prove his innocence? Who gains from such ideas and why must we trust those who embrace them? Remember it was in the 1960’s we were introduced to bra-burnings and free love. So convinced of the women’s liberation movement’s momentum, America’s largest corporations joined the charge. In 1967, Virginia Slims cigarette commercials reminded women, “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” And a mere five years later, Title IX became the law of the land.
From 1973 to today, women have made great advances. At times against terrific resistance and discrimination, however, they marshalled on, opened doors, and penetrated or brought down countless barriers. Our children, our society, and our country is better for it. But I believe that there can always be a bridge too far.
On March 23, 2006, forty-six of forty-seven members of the Duke University Lacrosse team complied with a judge’s order to provide DNA after a young woman told Durham, North Carolina police that she was forced into a bathroom by three men and beaten, raped, and sodomized during a party at which she was a dancer. The sole black member of the team was not tested, because the accuser said all of her attackers were white. Though the DNA testing failed to identify a single attacker, a grand jury indicted the three the victim had identified as her assailants. After a year of agony, uncertainty, and soul-searching, on April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges against the three innocent young men.
In light of AG Cooper’s unequivocal declaration of innocence, a handful of journalists who had rushed to judgment, issued apologies. The most heartfelt came from ESPN reporter/commentator, Jemele Hill. In an open letter to Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans posted on the news service’s website, Hill acknowledged an apology was, “not enough…For the last year, your lives and those of your families have been more difficult than any of us can possibly imagine. I’ll never know what it was like walking around normal society labeled a rapist. I’ll never know what it’s like to lose everything—your school, your program, and your life—because of one unproven accusation…I can’t deny that your race, gender, and class [had] everything to do with how you were treated then…Some people believe white men are exempt from sympathy and incapable of being maligned, so they will not swallow their pride and offer you the decency you should have received in the first place.”
Though she had never advanced the idea that the players were guilty, Hill admitted that she had “felt it”, believing it was, “just as bad.” Sadly, many of District Attorney Mike Nifong’s enablers in the media and the elites who had invested in their guilt, simply refused to accept their innocence. To this day, nary a murmur or apology they gave the young innocent men. Must we believe someone simply because of their gender? Must we always side with the accuser? What is it that we gain when we fail to consider the possibility that the accused may be innocent? Must everyone join Senator Hirono and those who hold her beliefs? Or may those who believe In The Defense of The Innocent continue to hold onto a world where We Are All Innocent Until Proven Guilty?
Eugene F. Ferraro, SPHR, CPP, is the author of the recently released book, In Defense of the Innocent: How to Respond and Recover When Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault or Other Serious Misconduct in our New #MeToo World Where Men are Considered Guilty until Proven Innocent (it can be found on Amazon). He has specialized in the investigation of allegations of behavioral and criminal misconduct for over 32 years. He is board certified in both Human Resources and Security Management (SPHR and CPP designations respectively) and the author of over 20 books. He frequently speaks and trains on the topics of complex investigations involving allegations of harassment, discrimination, sexual assault, and other serious misconduct in the workplace and schools. He is the founder and former Chairman of the whistle-blower technology company, Convercent, Inc. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot and a graduate of the Naval Justice School. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Institute of Technology.