The words ‘accused’ and ‘convicted’ tangle in my gut the way poison ivy spreads over my body resulting in irritation and swelling. The way the plant can hide in a serene forest landscape, the assumption of power over courage tangles the truth.
The social media comment simply stated, “There’s a difference between accused and convicted.” I agree with the literal and legal meaning. Not in actual, cultural experiences. Legally, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. In this incident, a woman claims a man pointed a gun in her face. The police did find the man and he had a loaded gun. Still, the woman’s accusation, and her experience, are not considered proven until judged and determined by a court of law. Her words are not even accepted or believed in the community. Possibly, her experience is just another alternative fact. I have lost trust in the system of this country where two men sit on the highest court of the land even though they have been accused of sexual misconduct. I have lost trust in the system of this country where the current president has several allegations, from numerous women, of sexual misconduct.
Now, the toxicity of another woman not being heard is raging through my body. I decide to change the descriptors, to shake up any bias I hold. I move the words man, woman, person, mayor, father, doctor sister, plumber, nun, homeless, white, black, brown, old, pretty. Each scenario I return to the same question, why would anyone decide to accuse another individual of pointing a gun in their face? In the specific situation that caught my attention, the altercation was due to a traffic incident. Added to the essential question, I was left to wonder, why would anyone accuse another individual of pointing a gun in their face due to a traffic incident? It isn’t only a question of innocence until proven guilty. In or out of the court, that question assumes power and recognition of the person exerting dominance and control. Why would someone falsely accuse someone of a threatening action? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2018, only 43% of violent crimes tracked by BJS were reported to police. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, with 13% not reporting because they believed the police would not do anything to help?
What if we stop protecting the accused and start respecting the person making the accusation? Both, hopefully, will have their day in a fair and equitable court to prove their accusations. Until then, let’s listen to the experience of people who have the courage to speak out after claiming they have been threatened and/or harmed with the same conviction as the accused. Let’s listen with the trust that the truth will be revealed.