The syndrome of putting the rights of an accuser above the rights of the accused is a chronic condition. In at least one previous story, Prompts and Circumstances discussed what little evidence is needed in certain cases, in order to bring charges against a person. As that article reveals, only an accusation and a signed affidavit are needed to initiate proceedings, and, many times, little (if any) investigation is required. Similar to this story about college men accused of rape, even after the accused is exonerated or the case is dismissed, the infectious damage caused by the allegation is irreparable.
While a defendant in a criminal case has the expectation of certain protected civil rights, they are overstepped and habitually ignored by the media, authorities, and the typical, human reaction of “torches and pitchforks.”
Once an accusation is made public, emotions are fomented, perceptions are created, and biases are formed. Wont as we are to believe that law enforcement, government agencies or school authorities wouldn’t mislead or lie to us, and that they would have unequivocal reason to begin a proceeding, we spread the blight. Not knowing that there likely has been very little exploration into the evidence or accusation, the reputation of the inculpated person is instantaneously terminated; her or his life is permanently changed. Presumption of innocence, be damned.
But, the rights of the accuser (I stop short of using the word “victim,” because they are not always) are put first. While a defendant in a criminal case has the expectation of certain protected civil rights, they are overstepped and habitually ignored by the media, authorities, and the typical, human reaction of “torches and pitchforks.” Meanwhile, those on the outside immediately close ranks around the accuser, who few are aware is often protected by law from investigation and examination. Not many know that the “system” to which they entrust their confidence has been purposely disfigured in order to favor condemnation over truth.
Frustratingly, the system that refuses to accept or recognize the possibility of false accusations works in favor of the establishment. Those of little means, or who are unable to fight on their own, often become victims themselves. Public defenders and court-appointed attorneys are underpaid and overworked. For them, it is both time and cost effective to convince their client to take a plea rather than fight a complicated case of fabricated claims that could still lead to trial – even in the face of little evidence and the likelihood of innocence.
The stain that was born from the hemorrhage that the allegation slashed into the blamed person’s life will not wash away with any immediacy.
Sometimes, however, the system realizes that it made a mistake. It recognizes that, while little evidence was needed to bring the charge, it cannot put enough together to make a case that will end in its own favor. The system refused to consider the likelihood that no wrongdoing occurred in the first place. With sheepish reluctance, the establishment accepts that their hand is called and they are forced to dismiss.
That’s good news, right? No, actually; it isn’t for anyone. In this development (as goes without saying), the accuser will have their own cross to bear. The system, though, will do what it can to save face and retain the upper hand. And the accused should not expect immediate (if any) absolution, apology or retraction. In fact, such a scenario could play against the censured person — this foul entity who “got away with it.” The stain that was born from the hemorrhage that the allegation slashed into the blamed person’s life will not wash away with any immediacy.
That is the problem with a system built to favor the rights of the accuser and ignore the equally important rights of the one being accused: no matter the outcome and regardless of innocence, if someone has been accused of certain heinous acts, a life of “normalcy” will heretofore be lost. Aside from the accused’s few remaining ardent supporters, not many outsiders will be willing to shake the “what if” from their brains. And, in this technological age, even fewer will ignore, let alone embrace, the lurking questions stimulated by a Google search.
Authorities are allowed to use just enough information to ruin the life of an inculpated person, and they can just as easily walk away once they recognize the futility of the situation.
A dismissal is not enough to shake those lingering concerns, either; certainly the media will not retract earlier reports vilifying the blamed, and the prosecutor’s office is not likely to admit they may have jumped to conclusions. A lost job will not necessarily be earned back simply because the case went away. Former friends who had previously vanished will not be inclined to send emails saying that they had been supporting all along in silent vigil. And, again, there’s that pesky Internet. The good news is that, eventually, information about the case will fall to page six or eight of a web search. Chances are low, though, that a curative follow-up will ever be found on Page 1.
The sad dichotomy of this type of accusation is that, in the beginning, there was perceived to be enough information to warrant a case, and maybe even an arrest, but there was not enough to carry the case to a decisive end. Authorities are allowed to use just enough information to ruin the life of an inculpated person, and they can just as easily walk away once they recognize the futility of the situation.
Where does that leave the one who was blamed? Typically jobless, friendless, lacking reputation and begging for forgiveness for a situation they did not actually create. Some might find legal recourse and financial remedy. But, with the way the system is set up, it’s rare that the authorities or accuser are found to be liable for the situation. The establishment will claim they acted in “good faith,” and the accuser will stand by their original claim. Meanwhile the wrongly-accused person’s only parting gift is liberation.