Is it a witch hunt?

Lithograph by Joseph E. Baker, Public Domain

It seems like every day since I learned who Harvey Weinstein is and his turdly ways, I read another article about a powerful man getting accused of sexual assault and harassment.

This has, of course, lead to the usual outcry: "Put the pitchforks down!" "Don't start a witch hunt!"

Since it's Halloween, let's look into it. Are we living in a modern-day re-enactment of The Crucible with a star-studded cast?

IS IT A WITCH HUNT?

Good question. It's always a good idea to make sure that you are not in the middle of a witch hunt, literally or figuratively. Here is a basic barometer:

Are innocent, vulnerable people getting accused of crimes by those in positions of power for no reason except fear and anger and sexism (or some other prejudice)? (Actual witch hunt.)

OR

Are people who have always gotten away with crimes suddenly being held accountable by their victims? (Actual justice.)

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

In one case, innocents who have done nothing except exist have their lives torn apart and/or violently ended because of prejudice, mob mentality, and general jerkiness. (Actual witch hunt.)

In another, people who ACTUALLY DID BAD THINGS, that are not only morally wrong but ILLEGAL, but always got away with it because they preyed on the vulnerable and counted on a system to support them, are seeing repercussions. (Actual justice.)

BUT I STILL DON'T LIKE IT!

Why do you think that is?

PEOPLE'S LIVES WILL BE RUINED!

Good point. A lot of peoples' lives have already been ruined by sexual assault and harassment and it continues to be a terrible problem because of nasty power dynamics, fear, and quid pro quo that helps us doubt victims and give the benefit of the doubt to perpetrators.

How many more victims are you willing to rack up before there are consequences?

THEY SHOULD GO TO THE POLICE, NOT THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION!

In an ideal world, yes. When someone commits a crime, including sexual assault, they would face normal, legal, consequences. Unfortunately, going to the police often results in the same nasty power dynamics, fear, and quid pro quo that the rest of society uses to protect perpetrators and discredit victims.

This means that a victim has a choice. They can say and do nothing and watch as the person who hurt them goes on with their life and possibly hurts others, allowing more lives to be ruined, or they can say something. The more publicly they speak, the less chance of someone getting victimized just because they didn't know about someone's dangerous history.

It's nowhere near ideal for many reasons, one being that speaking out is very risky for the victim. Chances are they will face a lot more harassment for doing so.

BUT... BUT...

Maybe it's time for a tough conversation with yourself. Why? Why don't you like people who have sexually harassed and assaulted others be held accountable? Why shouldn't people speak out about what has happened to them? Who should be protected first if a very bad thing has happened?


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