When you don’t need a conviction to be guilty

To the Editor:

In today’s political climate, allegations of sexual abuse and allegations are being thrown out like candy at a Halloween Trunk or Treat.
In these cases, there have been no charges laid or convictions upheld, yet the people at the center of the allegations have lost their jobs, reputations and their family’s name is forever smeared. This is regardless of whether they actually committed the crimes or not, and the world doesn’t care if they committed them – it’s a class case of jumping on the bandwagon and that of mob justice.
Our justice system is supposed to be based on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” but as many who have been through the system can tell you, it’s far from this in reality.  Many take plea deals as they don’t have the funds for a good defense attorney, others have no way of defending themselves other than their own testimony and it becomes a “he said, she said” situation, and others become collateral damage in a flawed system.  The ramifications are so much worse for those that are convicted of sex crimes as America continues its puritanical war on sex.
This is if it even makes it to the justice system. With the internet and social media being so far reaching in the matter of minutes, a person’s name and reputation can be destroyed from one allegation. There doesn’t need to be any factual evidence behind the allegation – the accusation is simply enough and the packs of wolves descend and tear apart the carcass of what is left of the person’s reputation and career. All is needed is one allegation from a lifetime ago and your life is effectively over. Men everywhere are becoming too scared to speak to women in the off chance that they are also accused.
Many use the excuse that victims simply do not lie about abuse and those that have been falsely accused can refute these claims.  There are various reasons why people make up false allegations but the crowds, hungry for metaphorical and physical blood, are too hungry to stop and look at this reasoning. The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction from not believing victims to believing them instantaneously and completely without any proof.
Not one of the alleged accusers have been charged or convicted but today we saw the death of a Representative in Kentucky by suicide.  He had one allegation against him and his career and reputation were gone.  We have no way of knowing of his innocence or guilt, and many would say that he must be guilty if he committed suicide, but those people have no way of knowing the helplessness and complete despair of losing everything you’ve held dear.  If you have built your life around your reputation, your religious beliefs and your place in the community, to lose this through one allegation is beyond devastating.  This is why this senator killed himself, not because he was guilty or innocent.  When people are committing suicide through simple accusations, we must start drawing a line in the sand.
I’m in no way advocating sex crimes but I am advocating for the rights for the accused.  We carry on about the rights of victims but the accused have a right to a fair trial instead of the kangaroo court currently taking place throughout the world’s media.  Have we completely lost not only our humanity but our grip on what is right and fair?

Amy Stewart
Village of Amelia