The MeToo movement has empowered women to tell stories of sexual harassment, assault and abuse by men. The movement has accomplished much good. Things that were hidden in the dark have been brought into the light.
Since April 2017, over 200 public figures have been accused of sexual misconduct. Some men have admitted their wrongdoing and have been fired or forced to resign. Others like Harvey Weinstein face criminal charges.
Nevertheless, there is a dark side to the MeToo movement: the risk of innocent men being punished. Many men who have denied wrongdoing have also been fired or forced to resign.
If multiple women accuse a man of sexual misconduct, the probability is very high that he is guilty, and a company would be justified in dismissing him. However, in the case of a single accusation, there is a possibility that the woman may not be telling the truth.
Case in point: In 2017, a woman falsely accused Ryan Seacrest of sexual harassment. The woman had threatened to make her accusations public if Seacrest did not pay her 15 million dollars. An independent investigation found the woman’s claims to be unsubstantiated.
Unfortunately, the MeToo movement encourages false accusations with its mandate to “believe all women.” It is naïve to believe all women for an obvious reason: human beings are not always honest. To believe that all women always tell the truth is to be gullible.
What’s more, automatically believing the accuser is to prejudge the accused without considering their testimony or evidence.
Imagine a court in which the judge said, “All women who testify must be believed.” How could any man hope to get a fair trial?
The MeToo shifts the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused. Its call to “believe all women” puts the onus on men to prove their innocence. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to prove that something did not happen, especially when there are no witnesses.
Shockingly, there are women in the MeToo movement who don’t care if men are punished for something they did not do.
Emily Lindin, a columnist for Teen Vogue magazine, tweeted, “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.” Her tweet received over 2,000 likes and 1,000 retweets!
Lindin argued that the “benefit of all of us getting to finally tell the truth” is worth the price of some innocent men being punished.
The MeToo movement risks becoming a witch hunt with innocent men being burned at the stake. By falsely equating a woman’s accusation with a man’s guilt, it undermines one of the most basic principles of justice: innocent until proven guilty.
When a woman accuses a man of sexual misconduct, her claim should be taken seriously and investigated. If a crime has been committed, it should be reported to the police. However, a single accusation is not proof positive of a man’s guilt.
If a man denies the accusation made against him, and there is no evidence to prove wrongdoing, and no one else has accused him of similar behavior, the wise course of action is to suspend judgement. To do otherwise is to embrace mob justice, which results in punishment without proof of guilt.