The Problem with Ignoring Doubts

The country has been in an upheaval recently because of the #metoo campaign. There have been many cases of sexual assault that have been outed after years of women (and men) keeping them secret for fear of reprisals against their character and careers.

This is, as is almost universally agreed, a positive step for the country, but at the same time, there is a risk that such enthusiasm for supporting those who have long held horrible secrets can lead to a slippery slope and some may get caught up in false accusations.

While it is an unpopular opinion to put forward at this moment, false accusations, while not as common as some have tried to suggest, still do exist in the modern world, and simply believing every accusation to be true because it was made creates the risk for more false accusations to come forward.

A similar problem developed over using children as witnesses in abuse cases. In the 1970s, an effort was made to encourage children to speak up and even to testify about abuse. The thinking was that unquestioning belief in their claims would help bring forward more cases and help protect more children.

While it did undoubtedly do that on some level, it also led to numerous accounts of unreliable testimony. Children, it was discovered, didn’t necessarily understand all the consequences of their actions. They were also more capable of being swayed into believing something false based on what others around them believed. Say, if one parent pushed hard enough with the belief the other parent harmed the child, the child may come to completely believe that was the case, even inventing details to help prove it. Because so little doubt was allowed in such cases, innocent people were harmed.

This is not to equate women (or men who have been abused) with children. Obviously, adult women know when something has happened and when it hasn’t. They are no more susceptible to believing something false than anyone else. However, this does show that unquestioning belief in the testimony of someone claiming some form of harassment or abuse can lead to some very unfortunate consequences.

Why would someone do this? There are numerous, ugly reasons, including petty jealousies, the desire for career advancement, or political motivations. With a general outcry for anyone accused to be dismissed from a position, it would be easy enough to make a claim and hope that a rival in a company or on the political stage would be dismissed.

The consequences could easily go beyond losing a job, though. As Bruno Law Offices points out, the consequences could include long prison sentences and a lifetime on a sexual offenders list. In other words, it could ruin someone’s life.

Again, it is rare for false claims to be made, and anyone who has been abused should be encouraged to speak out. They should be granted a certain amount of trust by the public, but it is important not to push that trust too far. Uncritical trust is sure to be taken advantage of by someone, and someone else will end up being found guilty when they are innocent.

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