— Trigger and Content Warning —
Like with the “Friendship Breakup” series, over the next few weeks, I’ll be answering commonly asked questions surrounding, specifically, Dr Ford and the entire fiasco that we just watched.
As this topic is of a sensitive nature, and many of you may have questions or stories you’d like to share or have answered, please feel free to drop a message in my Facebook inbox or DM me on my Instagram, @thingscarlaloves. You do not have to share your story in the comment section (or anywhere else) if you do not feel comfortable.
As always, there will be a list of helpline services added, if you need help. I strongly urge that you confide in someone you trust in order to help you heal.
Whenever anyone comes forward with a sexual assault and/or rape allegation, people will needlessly shout ‘IT’S INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY! THIS ISN’T THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS!’
Firstly, it’s needless because we fucking know it’s not the Salem Witch Trials you fuckers, you were the ones who burnt us.
Well, technically there wasn’t a lot of burning during the Salem Witch Trials (lots of hangings, tortures, imprisonments and one god-awful crushing), but not the point I’m trying to make, people. (Though if anyone lives in Salem, or has visited, I would genuinely LOVE to see photos. I’m a history teacher, so I relish things like that.)
Secondly, it actually isn’t ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
The phrase is ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty’.
I know that many of you are probably sitting there, scratching your heads thinking, ‘Bitch, please, now you’re just splitting hairs to justify you’ve got some man-hating feminazi agenda.’
However, I’m not splitting hairs, and if you’ll give me a chance, I’ll explain why that difference fundamentally matters.
While the difference is almost indiscernible, it creates a particular image in your head.
Innocent until proven guilty implies that the person is innocent.
Presumed innocent until proven guilty implies that the person very well could be guilty, but it needs to be proven.
That gives the mental image that a person might not be innocent.
This is important because, in this day and age, we seem to think that ‘proven innocent in a court of law’ actually means someone is innocent.
It means that they had better barristers than the other people, which often coincides with more money (weird how that happens), and if they’re that rich, they’ve probably got people to help them cover their tracks even if they’re not bright enough to do it themselves.
It could also mean that, due to a lack of forensic evidence, a conviction is hard to secure. (Thanks to incredibly accurate and scientific shows like CSI, people seem to want more and more forensic evidence before they convict – no matter how compelling some of the other evidence may be.) If a person cannot be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, it doesn’t matter what the jury thinks, they literally cannot convict him.
Depending on your country, most juries would have some sort of checklist to help guide you with this process so that people can’t just convict people based on whatever reason (though this happens all the time if you’re black – you’re far more likely to be convicted) you want, to ensure that the defendant has due process (plaintiff in civil cases).
Seriously, you don’t have to think too hard about this: Think of one of the most controversial acquittal cases ever: O.J Simpson’s murder trial.
As more and more evidence has come to light, especially since O.J’s trial, they’ve made more mini-series than I can count, and more and more people seem to believe that, despite the fact that O.J was found not guilty by a jury of his peers … he probably did it.
I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t exactly been entirely coy about the whole maybe-I-totally-brutally-murdered-the-mother-of-my-children-and-some-poor-guy-who-had-the-bad-luck-of-dropping-her-glasses-home-maybe-I-didn’t thing.
But there’s a very key phrase I used above, when I wasn’t being a total jackass, and that was not guilty, and there’s a difference that many of you need to understand, no matter how unlikeable it is.
‘Not guilty’ does not mean the same thing as innocent.
Before I go further, and people lose their fucking shit and skip over the important explanation as to why not guilty is not the same thing as innocent, I’m going to make some things very clear:
I would much rather a guilty person go free than an innocent person locked up.
I very much mean that. I’m not calling for an overhaul of our current justice system, and if I was, I’d talk about it in a separate post. If that means that sometimes guilty people go free, I’d rather live with that knowledge than the knowledge that someone was placed into a prison system – which in many places, like America, is woefully inadequate and resembles torture-like conditions – who was entirely innocent but didn’t receive due process.
I do not believe that every person who receives a guilty verdict is secretly guilty.
This one’s also important, especially when it comes to my proper explanation of why not guilty does not mean the same thing as being innocent. Some people who are found not guilty are found not guilty because, shock horror, they’re not guilty. Sometimes I think justice is served when a person is sent to jail.
Just as equally, I sometimes believe that justice is served when a person is not sent to jail.
(And sometimes, like in the case of Cyntonia Brown, I don’t understand why there’s a fucking case in the first place because I’m trying to work out how the fuck someone saw her case and was like, ‘Yup, that’s a cold-blooded murderer right there!’ I mean, fuck me.)
What I mean is, someone can be guilty as fuck, but we can’t always prove that.
For example, every year I wear red for Daniel Morcombe.
Daniel was a young boy who was abducted, raped and murdered while waiting for a bus.
Daniel was abducted on the 7th of December, 2003. The first bus driver, whose bus was entirely full, saw Daniel waiting at a stop. As he was unable to stop for Daniel, he radioed to ensure that there would be another bus along shortly.
In that three minutes, Daniel was abducted and never seen again.
Only some of his remains and clothing were ever found.
However, after a lengthy police operation (as they suspected who had murdered Daniel, but did not have the evidence to secure his conviction), they were able to make an arrest in 2011.
In 2014, the Crown (for you Americans I think that’s like your prosecution or ADA or some shit to help translate English into American) was able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Cowan had murdered Daniel.
While in this case, the Crown prevailed because of the police investigation, my point is is that even though the police were at least somewhat sure who the killer was – and as he was a person of interest quite quickly in Daniel’s case, quite possibly a primary suspect from the beginning – that doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty. He obviously was and is, but sometimes it takes time to prove things. That’s what due process is. Just like we couldn’t put Kavanaugh in prison based on Dr Ford’s testimony alone, we also can’t throw people in jail just because we ‘know’ they’re guilty. After all, DNA has exonerated plenty of dead people. That’s why the accused is presumed innocent, instead of immediately presuming that the accuser is the liar, so that we can protect everyone. It cannot be convenient only when we wish it to be, because then that’s not justice.)
And sometimes, even with all the evidence, someone can hire an incredible barrister who can make even the best evidence turn into some bizarre story that people seem to believe (here’s looking at you, Oscar Pistorius, who was originally convicted of manslaughter, not murder, because ‘he thought an intruder had locked themselves in the bathroom’) or that people don’t even care about (here’s looking at everyone who supports Donald Trump and doesn’t care that he ‘grabs them by the pussy’) to bother giving some a real sentence. (Despite what people tell you, justice isn’t blind, and it very much sees colour.)
Which is why you’re wrong when you say ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or if you ask someone if they believe in innocence before guilt. Either the person’s incredibly intelligent and is deliberately framing the sentence to give a specific answer (because of course everyone except Trump, Kavanaugh and their supporters believes in due process, but that isn’t the question they’re asking you), or is ignorant of what the sentiment means, and what the sentiment means is incredibly important.
Because while we’ve all become obsessed with CSI and similar-shitty shows, we’ve forgotten that a person’s allegation is, in fact, evidence.
Now, that evidence could be shit evidence. It could be unreliable evidence, irrelevant evidence, even untrustworthy evidence.
But it’s still evidence.
Which means that someone is accusing someone of a crime.
Which means that there is likely guilt there (hence, presumption).
However, people are sometimes shit, and to avoid burning people at the stake and deciding if someone’s innocent after they’ve drowned, that’s why the supposed guilty party allegedly did whatever the fuck they did, it’s why we require more evidence than just someone’s word.
Sometimes we can successfully prosecute someone we know is guilty.
Sadly, however, when it comes to cases involving violence against women, public opinion is that the alleged is always innocent and the accuser is always somehow a liar.
Don’t believe me?
Well, Amber Heard alleged Johnny Depp was abusive. She gave us photographic and video evidence – something that would have been incredibly dangerous and risky for her to do so – and she wasn’t believed. People have since come forward, with plenty of people either admitting to seeing Depp violent towards Amber, or violent on sets since. Her word, combined with photographic and video evidence, was not enough to convince most people that maybe, just maybe, she was telling the truth. It was easier to shout ‘Innocent until proven guilty!’, and indicate that maybe she was lying (cause reasons).
What about Brock Turner? He was literally caught by two men in the act, and he isn’t famous, but his career and life is worth more than his rape victim’s. Friends and family pleaded over how he couldn’t sleep and both he and his lawyers suggested it was just ‘drunken behaviour’ not something as ghastly and horrific as raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, but how many people are outraged over the fact that the victim’s life will always be different? You do not think that something so traumatic, so horrific, would change her life forever?
What about her opportunities?
Turner can’t enjoy his steak.
What if she can’t trust again?
What if her boyfriend left her, because he, like others, blamed her? Maybe he didn’t leave her at the trial, maybe he left her after.
Maybe she developed PTSD.
You have no idea what the long-term consequences are for the victim. It’s possible the victim isn’t even aware of them all.
I suffer from PTSD. It’s not unusual. It’s probably more common than you are aware of, and more people in your life probably suffer from PTSD than you realise.
Assuming her boyfriend (if she had one) left her, maybe he couldn’t handle the side effects of PTSD – and it’s not like America’s healthcare system is great. I mean, Australians have medicare, and I still have to pay a fucking shit ton. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be American.
And that’s why the distinction matters.
Because we aren’t taking allegations seriously enough, and we’re insisting everyone is innocent, and therefore assuming the accuser must be a liar.
And by doing that, we’re taking away due process, that pesky thing so many of you claim to love soooo much (but I guess you love it more when it means it supports your ideals).
We’re not upholding “innocent until proven guilty”.
We’re destroying it.
In Emergencies: 000
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
— Sources —
Bachelor of Education: English and History
Diploma in Criminology and Profiling
Diploma in Forensic Science
Background in law and psychology
Teacher 7+ years
Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.
NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.