So there’s no misunderstanding, let’s get a few facts on-the-record so what you’re about to read is clear.
I am opposed to sexual harassment in ALL its forms. Period. Those who’ve been victims of it - both women AND men - deserve our support and help in any way called upon. Period. I have absolutely nothing but contempt for anyone - woman OR man - who has perpetrated any sort of sexual or mental damage to another Period.
Are we clear? “Crystal,” you say. Good. Let’s proceed.
We’re being bombarded daily with seemingly endless claims someone sexually harassed someone. Entertainment. Political. Business. Educational. Seems somebody in almost any employment or social activity has been an S-O-B. The claims are exploding everywhere.
Good! It’s time - way past time - our society recognized the issue and how large it has become in our permissive environment. There can be no excuses, no more sweeping it under the rug, no more victims suffering silently - afraid to make legitimate accusations against the abuser. Period.
What about the public condemnation and shaming of the “abuser” when those accusations aren’t legitimate? Who suffers then? Whose career, social and public images are needlessly ruined?
It happens. I had a room mate in the military from Louisiana who was loudly and publically accused of stalking and rape. Clear descriptions to her superiors. Against my friend - a noncom with many years of good service.
He was called before the squadron commander and told of his expected punishment which included being stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged. He was confined to barracks.
Rumors circulated. While awaiting formal action, he was shunned by nearly everyone. He was called every name in the book. On several occasions, he was physically attacked. Those weeks were Hell.
He finally went to the commander and demanded an open hearing in front of a board of officers. He also asked the accuser be ordered to appear and testify. The commander agreed.
When the hearing was over, he was cleared of all charges. When faced with a lot of brass and in a formal setting, the woman recanted. Opening her own military records, it was clear she was deeply troubled, had been arrested for stalking and had been under psychiatric care.
And my room mate? He was militarily cleared of all charges, the recorded accusation was stricken from his personnel files. He was restored to his former rank with reimbursement for all pay lost.
As he continued his career, he constantly ran into someone at a new base that had been on the same one he had at the time of the accusations. He was often confronted by other personnel who hadn’t heard of the positive disposition of his case years ago. He never got away from it as long as he was on active duty. He also never received a promotion from the rank he held when being accused..
As we see more and more people hit with similar public charges, I can’t help but think of my old friend and the absolute Hell he went through for the rest of his career. I lost track of him years ago but I’ve often wondered if those phony charges followed him into retirement.
And that’s my concern now. It’s likely that most of the new accusations reported daily are accurate. That’s good. Bless those who’ve found the strength within themselves to step up and finally face their abusers and expose them for what they are. And, given the media herd mentality to uniformly traipse after the sensational or lurid, accusers will continue to have a national platform.
What if the accusations are false? What it they’re baseless? What if those named are as innocent as my friend? Will careers be similarly destroyed? Will legal bills to defend themselves bankrupt them? And, if found innocent, what will their lives be like from then on?
I’ve seen a lot of accusers being publicized without anyone seeking evidence or corroboration. Just throw out the name of a celebrity and you’ll make the evening news and the front page.
My friend’s life-changing experience has made me more cautious when it comes to anyone - woman or man - who simply makes a claim. I’m happy to see many accused fess up and some to take action to deal with their problem. But what about those - woman OR man - who may be dragged innocently into the media maelstrom?
It’s great this sensitive issue is being treated openly. But charges are just that - charges. They are not proof.