Reasonable Doubt

The news continues to be awash with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against powerful men in entertainment and politics.  It is heartbreaking to hear these stories and has caused a lot of us to reevaluate how we feel about some of the men who are accused.  Of course none of us really knows what happened except those who were there, but people rarely make up stories like this so it is likely that most of these allegations are true.

That being the case, our criminal justice system is not based on whether or not we believe people were victimized or on what is likely to have happened.  It (rightly) requires a much higher burden of proof than that.  In most instances, that means proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  In matters such as most of these, outside of forensic evidence and possible witnesses, the case often comes down to one person’s word against another.  That rarely meets the burden of proof.

And while it is understandable that sexual assault victims would be hesitant to come forward at the time of the attack, whatever the reason, the passage of time destroys any physical evidence and casts more doubt on the accuser.  The reality is that very few of the people accused in these cases are going to even be tried, let alone serve any time for what they did.  Their reputations may be damaged and they may find their careers destroyed but that’s probably going to be it.  That’s tragic.  

The glimmer of hope in all this is that, not only will men stop believing that they can just get away with this kind of behavior, but that the women (and men) being victimized will be empowered to step forward immediately to make sure these predators are put behind bars.  Only then will justice truly be served, beyond a reasonable doubt.  Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!

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