Saturday, November 11, 2017

About Roy Moore and Others Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Roy Who?

Roy Moore is a judge in Alabama who is a candidate for a seat in the US Senate representing Alabama. While he won the 2017 election, there was a bombshell revelation that he stands accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl and having sex with several high school students.

Since the #MeToo campaign several weeks ago, survivors of sexual abuse or harassment have been coming out of the woodwork to share their stories of victimization. This has not only affected Alabama, it is affecting us right here in Minnesota.

Dan Schoen and Tony Cornish

Dan Schoen (DFL representative in the Minnesota House) was recently accused of sexual harassment. A day later, a lobbyist came forward to accuse Tony Cornish (GOP representative in the Minnesota House) of sexual harassment. Both Schoen and Cornish are members of the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee. Cornish had been the chair, but the GOP speaker of the Minnesota House has stripped him of his chairmanship.

The allegations against Cornish will be investigated by an outside firm, according to the most recent information from the Pioneer Press.

Why I Believe the Victims

I have seen many questions, accusations, and comments floating around the internet. Some of them are to the effect of, "Give these men due process, they are innocent until proven guilty." Some of them state that the victims may have ulterior motives. Some of them wonder why victims took so long to report the revelations, and why now.

As an advocate for the prevention of sexual abuse, I have read some research in the way of false allegations. The fact of the matter is, they are quite rare, less than 8% of child sexual abuse cases are false allegations, and of those, they usually originate with adults, not the victims themselves. While I am less familiar with sexual assault as a whole, Quartz did an excellent piece this past May where they discussed just how prevalent false allegations are.

In short, I think there is ample evidence for the statistical likelihood that victims in general tell the truth. When it comes to these specific allegations against Moore, Cornish, and Schoen, I believe the victims, because I believe that not doing so does them a disservice, and not only them, but a disservice to all victims of sexual violence.

It takes an amazing amount of courage to come forward under a pseudonym and say that you were sexually abused, and I have seen many do just that. I am one of that number. It takes even more courage for someone to come forward using their real name, because they are putting their reputation on the line and trusting it to the not-so-trustworthy criminal justice system, which can support their accusation, or spread doubt about the veracity of their claims.

Where Does Due Process Fit In?

Where indeed? If we are to believe the victims, how do these accused men get their due process? To answer this, I must ask a very basic question: How many rapists ever face justice? To that end, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network paints a very scary picture: For every 1,000 rapes, only 310 are reported to police, 57 of those reports lead to arrest, 11 are referred to prosecutors, and 7 lead to a felony conviction. In other words, we prosecute less than 6% of rapists.

Due process means that an accused person has the right to face the allegations before a judge and jury, if they so choose, and defend themselves against the allegations. When most rapists never even reach that point, we have a failure of our system to hold perpetrators accountable. We also have a failure in our society in that we doubt victims when they come forward. If someone is to get their due process, then they first need to be charged with a crime.

After they are charged with a crime, then we can talk about due process, not before. The statute of limitations in Alabama, where Moore committed his act of violence, still allows him to be charged with the sexual abuse of a child under 16 years old. Moore should absolutely be charged. However, even then, it is extremely unlikely, even if he committed the crime he is accused of, that he will be charged, let alone convicted.

Our Justice System Already Fails at Due Process

In case you did not know this, we overlook due process when it comes to certain crimes. Sexual crimes are, "considered especially heinous," and because of this, a myriad of laws have been passed that to the average person, are obviously punitive. These include but are not limited to:

  • The mandate to register as a sex offender
  • Notifying the public of where sex offenders live
  • Restricting where sex offenders can live
  • Marking the passports of sex offenders
  • Travel restrictions due to registration status: If an offender visits another state, that state will require them to register in that state after a certain period of time
All of these requirements are not seen as punitive by most legislative bodies, they are treated as preventative measures that are aimed at improving public safety. However, these measures, according to the research, do no such thing, and have been heavily criticized by human rights organizations for - you guessed it - violating a person's due process rights, as well as other basic rights. 

In short, the very fabric of how we treat sexual crimes needs to change, not only in the criminal justice system, but in our everyday lives. When less than 6% of rapists get convicted, we have a systemic failure to hold perpetrators accountable, to believe victims, and to see that justice is served. When we require convicts to jump through extra hoops like the above restrictions after the completion of their sentence, we see a justice system that has become draconian and does not address the realities of what is effective in reducing crime: We see a system that blatantly violates the rights of both perpetrators and victims. 

I believe it is time for that to change. 

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