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The Presumption of Innocence Lost


These days, we’re hearing a lot about sexual abuse. I think all of us—not merely the naïve, but the most cynical—are learning that the problem is a lot more widespread than we have ever suspected. You can read about that elsewhere. That’s not what this is about.

Before I get to my topic du jour, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I take sexual assault and abuse very seriously. (The difference between the two, as I define them, is that what the former simply takes by brute force, the latter takes by the exploitive use of authority or trust.) Though both are so heinous that anyone who commits either should, at the very least, forfeit his freedom forever, I consider abuse, by this definition, to be many times worse than simple assault. By this, I do not mean to diminish the horror of rape, or the suffering of its victims. I am not comparing the suffering of one victim to another, but one criminal to another. All evil is evil, but not to the same degree. In my opinion, the evil in the hearts of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, pastors, teachers, etc, who use their positions to manipulate and exploit the vulnerable souls trusted to their care far surpasses, in most cases, that of the common rapist. I have previously stated that there is no penalty (that man can inflict) severe enough to fit this crime. I am not speaking in the least bit hyperbolically.

Keep that in mind if, while reading what follows, you think I’m insufficiently serious about justice and protecting the vulnerable.

Now you know what I think about that, and what this post is not about, I should get to the point. At the moment, I’m concerned with how we treat both the accuser and the accused.

Today, a song is being sung that was unknown at the founding of this nation. Its notes ring in sharp discord to those in our Constitution and, more importantly, with the melody of Scripture. It’s called “Believe the Victim” (or “Believe All Women”), and it’s a hit with the political left and all PC bandwagon riders. It’s not a pretty tune, but it’s loud. It’s words sound noble—what decent person wouldn’t take the side of the victim over the filthy pig of a sexual abuser?—but it’s pure poison (oops, lost my metaphor). It’s bad, because it’s deceptive; the words don’t mean what they say. “Believe the Victim” really means “believe the accuser.” the wrongheadedness of that ought to be obvious and terrifying to all who value life, liberty, and justice, but in case it’s not, I’ll explain.

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At the time of any accusation, unless you have first-hand knowledge—that is, you’re the accuser, the accused, or an eye-witness—you don’t know the truth. If you have personal knowledge of the accuser or the accused, you might be entitled to an opinion. If not, you don’t even have that, and you need to refrain from taking a side. Keep your mouth shut and stow your #hashtags. “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

This is not unfair or insensitive to victims. It is not to say we should take accusations lightly, or treat accusers dismissively. This, as we know, happens often. Like the accused, the accuser deserved her (or his) day in court. It is in that venue that we learn (though not infallibly) the truth, whether the accuser is indeed a victim to be believed, a liar, or, as has happened many times, confused by “memories” supplied by others. There must be swift, thorough, and objective investigations. When that is neglected or avoided, it hurts genuine victims (and potential victims when predators go free), depriving them of the justice and protection they desperately need and deserve.

Just as importantly, it hurts the falsely accused, depriving them of a restored reputation (as far as that’s possible—tragically, some cloud of suspicion will always remain). The accused needs and deserves the same swift, thorough, and objective investigation, and his day in court.

Until that happens, and a verdict is delivered, those of us not directly involved in the case need to acknowledge our ignorance and butt out. #Hashtag that.

We have been rudely awakened to the fact that sexual abuse is far more rampant than we knew. That is good. But one day, we’re going to wake up to find that false accusations of abuse, like the abuse itself, are more common than we have ever suspected. Both are evil, and both destroy their victims. We must hate both, impartially.



Posted 2019·02·25 by David Kjos
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Posted in: “Social Justice”

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