With the recent sentencing of former “America’s Dad” Bill Cosby, the ongoing Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the upcoming criminal and civil proceedings against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the politicization of the female experience compared to their alleged attackers is overwhelming. Today, and in recent weeks, it has been nearly impossible to look or listen to any type of media or social media in which those issues and cases are not being discussed. And those matters should be discussed because they are essential to what we are as a country and who we are as people.
Unfortunately, however, with the possible exception of Weinstein, discussion of the cases has mutated into often misinformed, uninformed or unsympathetic societal dogmatism. Side has surpassed substance. Consideration of allegiances has surpassed compassion.
I am a man. I am also a husband to a wife, a son of a mother, a father to a daughter, a grandson to grandmothers, a male cousin to female cousins, a nephew to aunts, great nephew to great aunts. I have had my life blessed by friendships and collegial relationships with many women. Their experiences have been and will be different than my own, just as mine may be different than others I might encounter. The only way to even begin to understand their experiences is to offer unconditionally open-minded consideration to their stories.
I have represented people falsely accused of sexual offenses or misconduct and known people who have dealt with the embarrassment and stigma associated with false allegations. I have also known women that have been hurt, and still more those who have been mistreated. And I know, realistically, many more women I know or have known have been hurt or mistreated and have stories and trauma that they have never been able or willing to share.
As a society, we need to learn to listen more than we talk, to not only hear and wait for the next occasion for us to interject but to listen. Of course, there will be and have been occasions of untrue allegations. The innocence of one accused is and should be presumed. So should the verity of those making the accusation. The only way to determine the truth is to listen to all the information provided, and accept the truth when it is offered.
There are and will always be those who cry wolf, who make up stories for financial gain, attention, vengeance, to avoid personal trouble, political motives or for any other reason. Those individuals should be called out, if proven, because that deception only serves to empower the wolf.
But, let me be clear, there are wolves and, as a civil society, those wolves must be called out as well, regardless of how wealthy or connected, or smart, or charismatic they may be.