My latest in the Guardian, about naming and shaming alleged rapists. A bit:
Other women have named their rapists on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr and on other sites. Every time, concern springs up: isn’t this vigilante justice? Aren’t accused criminals innocent until proven guilty?
In a US court of law, yes – but while we live under the rule of law, we don’t live in a court. Outside of the courtroom, people are entitled to their own narratives about their own lives. Concerns about the burden of proof and vigilantism are sometimes legitimate, but those same concerns don’t seem to arise when someone says, “my super broke into my apartment and stole my stereo” or “my grandmother’s caretaker has been pilfering money from her purse.” There’s no admonishment to withhold personal judgment or not take action; there’s no suggestion that the accuser is probably lying or that she should keep her mouth shut until a jury of her peers finds the alleged criminal guilty.
Protection for criminal defendants is crucial, and so is protection for the falsely accused and wrongly convicted. Putting the burden of proving guilt on the prosecution is a strength of the US legal system. But the video blogger is on YouTube, not in a court room. Her father isn’t facing the curtailment of his liberties by the state. She isn’t posting anonymously while naming her alleged assailant; she’s using her full name and attaching her accusations to her own face and reputation. To suggest that she can’t or shouldn’t tell her own story – to suggest that she has to turn her story over to a court before we can accept her word as her own truth – effectively muzzles her and many other women. It clips our agency. It puts our own narrative in the hands of someone who presumably knows better.
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