…than to punish the innocent.” This maxim may be more commonly interpreted and known, at least in the United States, as “innocent until proven guilty.” It is a foundation of law in the United States, and for a very good reason.
More and more, though, it seems like people have lost a fundamental understanding of why that maxim exists. When I see articles such as this, or this lovely article, with quotes such as, “How often are we manipulated into prioritizing the abuser over the abused?” I am reminded that, by and large, most people do not understand the nature of the judicial system or due process in the United States. The judicial system is one in the US that is known as “adversarial,” that is, the court pits the accuser against the accused to judge the evidence and credibility of those involved in the alleged incident. As part of this, courts and law makers have devised rules and standards for court conduct. One of those standards, in fact, one so important that it is covered twice in the United States Constitution, is the right to due process.
Due process comes from the idea that the government should not have the right or authority to arbitrarily decide, “This person goes to jail and has all their stuff seized today.” Because of that, due process rights are granted to the accused. To speak of “due process” for the accuser shows a serious lack of understanding. The meat of due process is best explained with the words that grant it, from the Constitution: “[No person shall] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” (And the same applies for the 14th Amendment, which holds the individual states to the same standard.) What this means, contrary to what certain political groups or advocacy groups want to push as a narrative, is that “listen and believe” can not be the standard for judicial proceedings in the United States. No person should ever be convicted of a crime just because of the word of another person.
This, of course, has another point that is very important: Until a person is convicted of a crime, that person is entitled to protection of their reputation. In short, false accusations of a crime are in and of themselves a civil crime (a “tort”). That is to say, if an individual makes a false accusation and that damages the reputation of another, the person who was accused has the absolute right to sue for defamation – regardless of what certain political groups want to push as their narrative. By using anti-SLAPP laws to allow false accusations to go through violates everything just about the justice system and opens people up for further abuse by those who already intentionally harmed them!
Due process is fundamental to the United States legal system. By trying to eliminate it, those who push for its removal erode the validity of the justice system and encroach ever closer on an authoritarian State where the rights to be secure in your person and property no longer exist. It is a shame that education has fallen so far to the wayside and allowed hysteria to blossom and push horrible ideas to the forefront unchallenged. So this is my plea: Challenge these ideas. When someone talks about dismantling a cornerstone of the justice system, ask why. What do they really hope to gain from it? What is the real underlying motivation for those statements?
I think anyone who does will be surprised at just how deep the rabbit hole goes, and just how terrifying the thought process of those people really is.