Guilty until proven innocent in the age of accusation

The days of laying low accused serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein have given way to a Spanish inquisition of sorts

Society seems to be forgetting one of our judicial system’s most important principles: innocent until proven guilty. Ask yourself what it would be like to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit, lose your livelihood, and be punished by the law or labelled a pariah for the world to see, all because of an accusation and nothing more.

The #MeToo movement started with the absolute best of intentions: shedding light on sexual assault victims coming forward to name their abusers and share their stories. Hardly an easy thing to do. Even admirable.

But that was then. The days of laying low accused serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein have given way to a Spanish inquisition of sorts. Perhaps as a man my perspective is much different than a woman’s. Still, the sheer amount of accusations is becoming impossible to keep track of.

Patrick Brown, Paul Bliss, Kent Hehr, Rich Dykstra, James Franco, Aziz Ansari. I could go on. So many Hollywood stars, politicians and media personalities have been lumped together under a massive umbrella of “abusers” that we risk making light of the serious assaults the #MeToo movement seeks to stop.

It’s become a guessing game around the water cooler. Who’s next? The mailman? The dog walker? The prime minister? Nothing seems shocking at this point. All are suspect.

One of the big problems with #MeToo is how broadly used the hashtag is. People accused of rape or assault are being lumped together with those who have had a bad date or made an unwanted comment. All have importance, but one of these things is clearly not like the other. Someone “guilty” of cat-calling doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with an actual criminal.

Another problem is how much power mere anonymous accusations can have. Former Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown, for example, has been accused. Whether he’s guilty or not hardly matters. His career is over.

Brown might have enough money to weather the storm, but what about the average joe? If such accusations were made against someone living paycheque to paycheque, that person would be ruined. That’s justice, if he’s guilty. What happens if he’s innocent?

It seems like society has forgotten that and is all too eager to shout “me too!”