IF YOU WERE, SAY SO
Kelly, Oil on Masonite, 16" x 18.5", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Circa 1968, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Some well-known men, accused of (ab)using power for sex, aren’t denying it. There are too many voices with similar stories that ring truer than the denials, threats and confidentiality clauses. Some of the accused announce they are getting into therapy, suddenly realizing they are victims of possessing too much power and too little character. Epiphany. My sympathies and encouragement. Some abusers openly admit their abuses. I am waiting to hear whether this is part of Louis C.K.’s shtick. Will his next stand-up routine headline masturbating in front of women? I doubt it will be on HBO. Most important for a meaningful redistribution of power and lasting deterrence are the public defrockings and contract cancellations.
I am delighted and encouraged by the #MeToo movement, its momentum and impact. I also defend people accused of crimes and give them the benefit of the doubt. I maintain those views simultaneously and, I hope, mostly consistently. I see the government’s burden of relieving citizens of their inalienable rights to “life, liberty and property” with “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” as different from a growing collective of victims uniting together publicly to decry serial exploitation of power through sex. I leave for another post how public universities address allegations of sexual assault.
I have also seen postings suggesting that if a woman says it, we must believe it.
Some lines are bright. We all know victims of sexual abuse. Given the statistics, many readers of this post likely were abused. (A few abusers might be reading it too.) The worst, of course, are the children. The devastation, which occurs during their formative years, is often compounded by abusers’ violation of a position of trust, trust that gave them access.
I can think of an array of contexts in which other lines are gray.
Over my career I have represented people who were charged with sex crimes. Yes, unfortunately, instances of false allegations of such crimes occur, resulting in formal charges. False allegations carry devastating, life-long consequences for the accused. Moreover, false allegations of sexual assault, abuse or harassment undermine the credibility of the reports of real victims. Likewise, anyone who falsely posts #MeToo risks slowing its momentum and undermining trust in the veracity of those who are real victims.
If it happened to you, say so. Otherwise, it’s not fair to the victims. It’s not fair to the person falsely accused.
Links to a couple of my posts on this subject are below
#MeToo: Toward a Meaningful Redistribution of Power https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner/metoo-toward-a-meaningful-redistribution-of-power-dd7d89343c69 or
#MeToo: Objectifications in My Rearview Mirror
*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.