DIMOND: Due Process in the #MeToo Era

BY DIANE DIMOND

The U.S. Constitution guarantees that no American citizen shall “be deprived of life, liberty or property” without being afforded due process of the law. It is one of the bedrocks of our legal system. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees every person, including those in the country illegally, “equal protection” under the law. And everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

What has happened to those ideals?

I honestly do not want to get into the briar patch of the Brett Kavanaugh vs. professor Christine Blasey Ford drama. But the divisive episode raises deep and troubling issues.

There is a seething anger in today’s America. Too many have developed the habit of dismissing and vilifying those who don’t think the same way. We don’t listen — I mean really listen — to one another anymore. Our “us vs. them” mentality has morphed past the mere political to include a new sort of gender war. It’s now become popular to hold men up to scorn and suspicion. And then there’s the idea that if a woman makes a claim of sexual harassment or assault, she (SET ITAL) must (END ITAL) be believed, no questions asked. She must automatically be referred to as a “victim” and “survivor.”

But if everyone is supposed to be treated equally under the law, shouldn’t we be open to the possibility that sometimes an accusing woman (or man) might be exaggerating? S/he might be covering up her/his own misbehavior by deflecting attention to the other party. Or s/he might be spitefully lying (one case in point: the false gang rape allegation made against members of the Duke University lacrosse team).

If every single claim made must automatically be held as holy wit, then really, the veracity of all claims becomes questionable.

I have spent a career reporting on the physical/emotional/sexual abuse of victims. I am overly sympathetic to women and children who have endured domestic, stranger or pedophilic violence. As I have written here, #MeToo applies to me, too. I have personally experienced the shock of being pushed and held against a wall and violently invaded by men who thought I “wanted it.” I completely understand why a woman might not immediately come forward with a complaint. I didn’t.

Back then, if I had gone to the police and made an official statement, the matter likely would have gone to court, because if I’d had the courage to come forward, I darn well would have made sure to take it all the way to trial. I would have told my story under oath, and the man would have been given a chance to do the same. Then the judge, or maybe a jury, would have decided who was right and who was wrong. That is due process. It might be a slow course of action, but it is the fair way to do things.

Due process is what delivered justice to the dozens of victims of Bill Cosby. After his first trial ended in a hung jury, the justice system plodded along and held a second trial. Cosby, 81, was then found guilty, labeled a “sexually violent predator” and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.

Presumably, this procedure will soon take place in another headlined sexual assault case, the one that awaits disgraced moviemaker Harvey Weinstein.

It may not be a fast-enough process for some, but I refuse to believe returning to Salem witch hunt-era tactics is acceptable. It is simply not the American way to declare suspects guilty or brand them liars from the get-go. It is not acceptable to allow agitators to scream for immediate justice.

It is not helpful when shrieking members of a group that opposed any and all of President Trump’s nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court corner decision-makers like Sen. Jeff Flake in a Capitol Hill elevator.

“I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me!” one of the confrontational activists screamed as a CNN camera rolled. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter!”

(Wait a minute. She either told people about her assault and no one believed her, or she didn’t tell anyone. Both cannot be true. But I digress.)

Sen. Flake’s offense? Participating in a respectful fact-finding mission regarding what to do in the Kavanaugh/Ford matter. At the hearing, Flake’s face revealed his anguish with the task. What did that temper tantrum out in the hall accomplish besides giving the finger-pointing activists 15 minutes of fame? Nothing, I say.

We now live in an enlightened world where age-old acts of sexual victimization have been exposed, perpetrators revealed for all to see. I’m hoping women everywhere understand that they no longer have to endure sexual harassment and assaults. Saying no is the new norm.

The path to justice has now been paved. Let’s not sabotage it with screeching displays in hallways. Let’s restore and demand dignity and due process and fairness for everyone — women and men.

Rockland County resident Diane Dimond is a journalist, author, and a regular contributing correspondent for the Investigation Discovery channel. To find out more about Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com