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#MeToo, The Media, And Due Process

Updated on January 27, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

The Movement

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A Recent Alleged Offender

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Public Opinion Is Powerful, But Can We Be Mindful, Too?

Earlier today, I commented on a friend's post regarding the recent allegations swirling around now-former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown. For those who may not be aware, Patrick Brown has recently had two sexual misconduct allegations levelled at him, and while he initially seemed reluctant to step down, finally did so. His reputation is in tatters, and like so many men before him, he will likely never recover from this.

At any rate, I essentially commented that much as people might dislike Patrick Brown, and I certainly am not his biggest fan, we have to allow the court of law and not the court of public opinion to deal with this. The local police department have not received a complaint against him, per Global News; essentially, these allegations were levelled at Brown via a news article that ran earlier in the week of January 22 to 26, 2018.

There appears to be no indication that his accusers, who apparently were in high school and university at the time of the alleged incidents, have ever gone to the police about these misconduct allegations. Granted, Brown was a politician with some influence, and so, these younger women may have been somewhat intimidated by the notion of power, as happens very frequently. In addition, the one woman who was in high school at the time of the incident also happened to be under Ontario's legal drinking age at the time, according to The Toronto Star, so it's also possible she was reluctant to come forward with this decade-old allegation at the time of the incident due to worries she might become in trouble with the police.

However, with all of that said, no complaint has been filed.

Someone replied to my comment that police weren't even needed yet, and then started to draw comparisons between Patrick Brown and OJ Simpson, Bill Cosby, Casey Anthony and others. There are fundamental differences between the case involving Mr. Brown and the other three cases named here: Simpson, Cosby and Anthony have all had criminal complaints filed against them. They were all investigated. In fact, all three went to trial.

I'm not saying that people didn't try and publicly flog all of these people when their crimes came to light, but the simple fact is, due process was exercised. Even in President Donald Trump's case, there are recordings discussing some rather disgusting beliefs about how women should be treated. He hasn't been caught for anything illegal, though the pundits might argue that legal recourse is coming soon for some sort of illegal activity.

In Mr. Brown's case, while rumors have dogged the man for years that he is something less than a delightful sort of gentleman, we have to remember that he is entitled to due process, regardless of how we might feel about him personally.

Are there those who have "inside information" about bad behavior on his part? Indubitably. I have no question that there are those who have probably not been treated well by him, though his personal relationships are unknown to me.

Let me be clear: as a sexual assault survivor, if Mr. Brown is guilty through a court of law of a sexual crime, I will quite happily see him fester behind bars.

But these women never went to the police, from what we know thus far.

And therein lies the next problem.

Believe, But Let's Not Sensationalize

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#MeToo And Going To The Media Instead Of The Police

In response to a comment on a post I'd made earlier, someone said that I should "go ahead and research why it's difficult to come forward and be victim shamed." Granted, he has no idea about me or what I've been through, but in spite of my own experiences with sexual misconduct and the intensely personal experience it is to "come forward and be victim shamed," I am acutely aware of the research.

I know that RAINN reports that of every 1000 rapes, only 6 are successfully prosecuted.

I know that Statistics Canada, according to Global News, reports that basically one in 10 substantiated sexual assault cases result in conviction.

I know that the victim in these cases has to effectively justify everything they did, thought, or said at every step. I know that they have to explain everything, over and over, until they almost feel interrogated for something they did wrong. They have to justify every facet of their behavior with men before and after the situation just to prove they were violated.

I was that victim twice, years ago, once when I was too young to do anything about it and once when I was too intimidated.

You know what I did?

I didn't go to the media in hopes of drawing attention to a horrifying situation.

I went to people who could actually do something lawful about it so that justice could be done.

In the cases of so many of these women involved with #MeToo and just the whole process of coming forward to let people know that the terrible things that have happened to them will make them victims no longer, there have been many who have actually gone to the police. However, I'm becoming very concerned by the numbers who are going to the media instead.

Anyone - man or woman - who has a story of being sexually assaulted or harassed is incredibly brave to come forward and tell their story. I believe sharing that story is very important, but if the people involved in #MeToo are to be taken seriously, the first step in discussing an alleged perpetrator is not through the media. It can't be; if an investigation comes out of whatever the discussion reveals, how can the alleged perpetrator get unbiased judgment?

It is painful to think that anyone who may have committed sexual misconduct is entitled to anything, much less legal recourse to defend themselves or anything along those lines, but North America (and several other countries, for that matter) are founded on the principle of innocent til proven guilty. Yes, people might feel that Patrick Brown is a sleaze, or someone who isn't all that great to women - I don't know. Yes, two women have come forward and revealed sexual misconduct allegations. They are brave for having done so, but we don't know anything beyond what the media has reported.

Rumors, uninvestigated allegations and media stories do not equal the truth.

If it was your mom, dad, brother or sister who had accusations like these facing them, would you not want them to have due process, rather than the very public humiliation and evisceration that Brown is enduring?

Even the women who revealed these allegations in the newspaper deserve to have them investigated. If the police say there is something criminal that needs to be investigated and taken to trial, that's on them - not those of us on social media.

To eliminate that important part of the process - the right to due process - by launching what amounts to a public flogging on social media of the person accused is, quite simply, unfair.

We can do better.

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