Op-ed: Due Process and the #MeToo Movement

Image+courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mwangala Simataa

Nowhere has the need for due process been embodied more than in the conversation around the #MeToo movement. The movement has done a great deal in exposing the climate of sexual harassment that exists in our society. In spite of the good the #MeToo movement has done, it falls short of the core democratic principle of due process.

While there is reason to think that most of the allegations leveled against most men are true, the movement’s prescribed punishment for accused individuals has been public shaming and banishment from former workplaces is not enough. Rape and sexual assault cannot be dealt with just a shaming. They are criminal acts, and as such, they should be litigated and punished with the full force of the law.

Public shaming is the antithesis to due process. Without having to adhere to the rigorous legal standard, public persecution has the potential to affect the innocent and draw attention away from the real perpetrators of sexual assault. Therefore, the accused must go through due process. This will not only help those that have fallen victim by punishing their victimizers in a proportional way, it will also allow those who have been wrongly accused to have all the means available to them under the justice system to clear their names.

The need for due process is more salient in penumbral cases where judgments have to be made based off the testimony of the accuser and accused. In these cases, different parties have different interests at play when determining who to believe. Those who sympathize with victims will follow the dictum of “believe-her” in all cases, while those who advocate for the rights of the accused will take accusations with a large pinch of salt. Obviously, both approaches will inevitably make mistakes, a situation that can be averted if accusations are litigated within courts of law where both sides can be heard.

It must be addressed that the court process can be traumatic for the victim, which harms both her mental wellbeing and her credibility as she might find it difficult to recall events accurately. Therefore, we must have a conversation about how sexual assault cases are tried because if both the victim and the perpetrator are not allowed to defend their position on equal ground, then due process is at risk.

If cases do not go through due process, we run the risk of making unjust judgments about people who are wrongly accused and deny victims the substantive justice they deserve. The more this happens, the more we will find ourselves in a society where paranoia dominates our sex lives, requiring us to have sex contracts for every hook-up, a situation every college student should surely find most intolerable.

Mwangala Simataa is a senior Philosophy and Economics major from Zambia.

Rebecca Wai is a senior Policy Studies and Economics major from Singapore.