With the #MeToo movement resurfacing after the Harvey Weinstein allegations, there have been debates how the movement affects due process for those who have been falsely accused. Some argue that the movement ruins the lives of those who are falsely accused because of the automatic assumption of guilt for the alleged perpetrator.
However, the criticisms against the movement hinge on rare cases of false allegations, thereby devaluing a whole movement based on an inflation of the number of false allegation cases regarding sexual misconduct.
According to a Statistics About Sexual Violence packet by the National Sexual Violence Research Center (NSVRC), 2-10 percent of sexual assault cases are falsely reported. This is an extremely small percentage.
This is not to say that the accused do not deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty within the court system, or that the rare cases of false allegations should be ignored. However, devaluing the entirety of the #MeToo movement because of the 2-10 percent of false allegations is unfounded.
The due process debates often culminate around United States President Donald Trump’s tweets defending those accused of sexual misconduct. According to a New York Times article written by Mark Landler, Trump has defended multiple men accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct.
These men include: Republican candidate Roy Moore, former Fox News TV personality Bill O’Reilly, former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former professional boxer Mike Tyson.
These allegations range from Lewandowski’s battery charge – where he grabbed the arm of a female reporter – to Tyson’s rape charge – where he went to jail for raping an eleven-year-old beauty queen.
According to Landler’s article, Trump has argued that the good character of those accused and the lack of timeliness of the allegations reduce the credibility of the accusations. His arguments parallel critiques of the #MeToo movement.
However, the perceived moral character of a person does not exonerate that person from a charge. There have been many examples of people who have been considered to have a good character that have committed acts of sexual misconduct.
Some examples are Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and Robert Kelley. All of these men were often perceived by the public to be good people, yet the overwhelming evidence revealed they had committed criminal sexual acts.
Additionally, these criticisms assume that because it took a long time for these women to report, their accusations are invalid. The length of time between the incident and accusation has nothing to do with the truthfulness of the claim.
In fact, often there are good reasons people will wait before they report cases of sexual misconduct, especially rape. According to a false reporting overview by the NSRVC, “victims who do report will delay doing so for a variety of reasons that are connected to neurobiological and psychological responses to their assault.”
For example, victims may struggle to remember, or have negative emotions when remembering their assault. Additionally, they may worry about how reporting will affect their friends and family – this is especially true if a family member assaulted them. Or the victim may be deterred from disclosing their assault because of the discomfort of the forensic exam, or “rape kit”.
These concerns are completely reasonable and have nothing to do with the fallibility of the accusations.
The #MeToo movement strives to give victims a free space to come forward and voice their experiences with sexual misconduct. By devaluing the movement based on ludicrous reasoning, critics are deterring victims, who are already hesitant to come forward, from reporting these crimes and seeking justice.