Fact-checking the #MeToo sexual harassment allegations. How many of them are true and fair? - Kogonuso


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Mar 7, 2019

Fact-checking the #MeToo sexual harassment allegations. How many of them are true and fair?

Did you know that hundreds of popular and successful men in the U.S. have suddenly been accused of sexual harassment in the last few months? If you’re an American, you surely already know it, but for me, a person from Europe, that was a heck of a suprise.
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Out of nowhere, a big social movement called #MeToo initiated thousands of women to publicly announce that they have been victims of sexual harassment in the past. It appeared that almost anybody has been or has a friend that has been sexually harassed.

It sounded so horribly but at the same time so unrealistically. Forcing somebody to sex is breaking one of the basic moral rules that no normal person in XXI century should ever doubt. Don’t kill, don’t rape. How the f..k so many known people in the U.S. could end up ignoring it? And why did the other people tolerate them doing that for so long?
Recent news about #MeToo movement -The Guardian, July 2018

After reading about the alleged cases a bit more though, something else has struck me. Many of the accused have had their public careers ruined totally basing just on unconfirmed sexual allegations and no due process behind them at all. Why does the public penalize others so much on their own without depending on the courts? (An accusation without a legal process is just an accusation, isn’t it?)

All in all, I was stunned and confused. Why has this issue been reraised so loudly, so suddenly, so late? I thought we had already brought gender equality about ~40 years ago. What was happening in the meantime? Second, why people are avoiding legal process in the case of sexual assaults? Why are they bringing justice on their own? Third, what is that thing with requiring the signed agreement before having sex? Fourth, do all of my female friends have similar experience with sexual harassment in their past? Or is it just that the U.S. is so different than Europe, that people do not comprehend that you cannot act against somebody’s will?

These questions were not only shocking to me but were laying out there in my head unanswered for months. So I decided to dig in.
Photo by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

(Unfortunately, as it happens more and more often nowadays, the more time you spend researching a topic on the Internet, the more confused you end up being about it. Who’s telling the truth? Is it based on facts and logical reasoning? If yes, does it actually matter to the whole case? Those are the questions you have to ask yourself literally all the time.)

I spent my last entire seven days from morning till evening reading through the Internet about #MeToo movement and multiple sexual harassment allegations that happened in the U.S. since October 2017. I learned what is (and what is not) feminism and the 4th wave of it. I tried to grasp the definition of a sexual consent. I debated whether being a gentleman is sexist. Eventually I even started to wonder whether flirting between a man and a woman is something that we still want in a modern civilized society.

The result is outstanding. Before, if you had asked me about any of the issues above, I would say they are obvious and need no explanation. I’d just pass you their definitions right away, e.g.:

Sexual consent is when both of you want to have sex with each other.
Sexual harassment is when you forcefully try to have sex with the others from your work place.
Flirting, as long as it is not unwanted, is a cool and basic way to build up a strong and romantic connection with another person.

Right now I still take above truths as granted. But I have also learned tens of other truths. And at least for now I cannot tell which of them which is the final real truth.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Thus, during my research I decided to note down a few of recent sexual harassment allegations and point out what is confusing about them. One of the primary goals was to split facts from the opinions, connect them with each other, and only then find the real questions that need to be answered in order to explain and solve this whole problem of sexual violence in the U.S.

(Note: I decided to put my inner thoughts in italics, so you can distinguish them from the facts.)
Kevin Spacey

It all started when I heard that Kevin Spacey got fired from House of Cards. Netflix decided they will either drop or change the entire last season of this great TV series.

The reason was: a man alleged that Spacey made a sexual advance against him in 1986. The assaulted was 14 years old by then!

(Shit! That’s serious. Seems like Spacey is a pedophile. Wow. But wait. What does that have to do with his appearance on TV series? Is Netflix supposed to close the show just because it is said the actor committed a crime about 30 years ago? How can you be so sure that the alleged situation actually took place?)

There’s more people that spoke out. There is about 20 sexual harassment allegations against Spacey now. Many of them are accusations of sexual assault, like uninvited groping of other people’s genitals by his hand in a totally unexpected moment (e.g. during a conversation by the table). A few of the victims were underaged by then.

(Seems like it is truth after all, that he is a pedophile. So many allegations, there’s a high chance at least one of them is true. But what about the due process? Why is it us, not the courts, that convict him? Also, why do the victims speak out so late about it?)

Sadly none of the accusations are in due process. Why the victims don’t want to go to court is hard to tell. Probably it is just too difficult to prove the crime now after so long time, or the victims just had made a deal on their own with Spacey.

(So this is why the public doesn’t wait for the due process and does the justice to Spacey on their own… Weird explanation to justify avoiding due process, but okay… Let’s say I agree, as in this case it is quite obvious he committed at least a part of those assaults.)
Harvey Weinstein

A guy named Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful people in the Hollywood (co-producer of such movies like Pulp Fiction), has been accused by over 80 women of sexual harassment and rape. According to accusations, this was a recurring behaviour happening for over 30 years, and many of victims were very well known actresses! It is said that many people knew about it, nevertheless nobody did anything about it.

(!! How is it possible that it continued for so long and nobody tried to prevent it?)

In the result he has been fired from his own company. Some of the victims settled down the allegations with Weinstein in private, probably in exchange for large sums of money. Some of the other ones are on their way to put him in jail with legal process. Although it is very probable it will be difficult for them to prove it.

(How do you prove that somebody did/said something to you in private years ago? That’s almost impossible. Too bad he will probably get away with it, at least in the court. I think it’s fair that nobody will want to make any business with him from now on. His behaviour was waaay past the line, hurt many people, and it should have been stopped years ago.)
Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. liked to masturbate in front of the other women. (;o Weird fetish. However, what about it?)

He asked a few women, usually associated with his work place, if he can masturbate in front of them. (Now, that’s not only weird, but also fucking unprofessional.)

However, what seems to be different in this case, according to both the allegations and his apology, he didn’t really force the victims to do anything. He always asked for their permission first, and (at least in the alleged cases) they either rejected it before anything happened, or if it was already happening, they yelled at him or laughed him off and left the room.

(Hmm, so it wasn’t that bad — he didn’t assault anybody.)

But the disgusting memory about his offer has remained in the women minds.

(Fucking obviously. Why would you ask a person, with whom you have no intimate connection, of a such a thing out of the blue? How the fuck a person like Louis C.K. didn’t know such behaviour is just waaay past the line?)

Louis’s public career seems to be ruined, at least for now. Even though he was one of the biggest names in the comedy world and he created an Emmy-winning TV series, suddenly he had all of his future TV and theatre shows cancelled.

(Wow, that was harsh. He did cross a line a few times by making a few people uncomfortable, but is it justified to penalize him so much? Can’t he remedy for it?)

In his apologies, he said the women who let him proceed did so because he had “power” over them (as he was greatly admired by both them and their friends). Thus, it was difficult for them to say no to him.

(…Power? How does admiration give power? A popular and respected dude is still just a dude. Why would I take his interests over mine? Especially those basic ones, like comfortability and safety?)

It was a sexual harassment with use of power because some of the victims actually tried to raise the issue of his inappropriate behaviour to their friends and co-workers (so his stupid and inappropriate acts would finally stop and not harm other people), but then… they got silenced (!). If they hadn’t stopped talking to the others about what he did, it would actually be them, the victims, that would end up being penalized by their workplace.

(Aha! This implies he did actually have power over them. Now that’s not only disgusting but fucking unfair. Good for him and good for them that they finally spoke out about it. And about the fact that his career has been ruined… well, fuck it. Let’s treat is as a fair warning to the other people like him, so they know that popularity and power doesn’t give you an excuse to do such disgusting things.)

How tough will be the penalty of Louis C.K. given by the public? Will they ever forgive him? Only time will tell.
Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman has been accused by 8 women of sexual harassment at his film production studio. Some of the accusations seem to be solid, e.g. he constantly tried to lift a skirt of one of the production assistants (which would be a sexual harassment or even an assault) and commented on girls’ bodies who worked there for him (hard to say if it’s a sexual harassment, but we could agree it is inappropriate: a boss should restrain from giving such comments to his employees).

There’s just one problem with those accusations. They are described very briefly by the CNN and we can’t tell what really happened in the reality. Were his comments rude, like, “I like your ass”, or just small compliments, like “You look nice today”? Were they unwanted? Did the women express that those comments are unwanted?

(Giving compliments about other person’s body, as long as it is not unwanted, is not a sexual harassment. It’s either being nice or flirting.)

The more suspecting fact is that 7 of the accusers are anonymous, and the 8th one comes from… the CNN itself.

Morgan did apologize but only for “making people uncomfortable, however unintenionally”.

(Which is like for nothing. Anybody can apologize for unintented making other people uncomfortable. The questions rather are: did he actually do that, and is such behaviour inappriopiate?)

He also denied all of the harassment accusations and added:

“All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them. But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor.” — Morgan Freeman

Even more Morgan Freeman is the accusing person now. He threatened that he will sue the CNN if they don’t apologize him and retract the accusations, as he said he has a proof that at least one of them is false. The one in which the CNN reporter claims he harassed her by… complimenting her body in a junket interview. (How is that even a harassment?) Freeman claims she over-understood what he said, and that it wasn’t about her nor was it a harassment.

(I knew it must have happened sooner or later. Seems like someone used #MeToo in order to get their own fame on the cost of the accused. I barely see anything here that Freeman is accused of. Maybe there was more than that, but maybe there wasn’t. Whom should I believe? CNN or Freeman?

For now, I think I’ll believe none of them. I’ll wait for proved information. I hope he won’t get his career ruined just because of some shallow allegations of flirting in the workplace. Not that I accept it — no, no, I totally don’t. Unwelcome flirting is bad, unfunny, rude, totally unprofessional. But destroying somebody’s life just because he gave an unwelcoming compliment? That looks to me like a total and unjust penalization of a person.)
Aziz Ansari

A woman accused a famously known comedian named Aziz Ansari of a sexual misconduct. Story in short:

A woman goes on a date with Aziz. It goes well: they end up in his apartment kissing and undressing themselves. They start to have sex. At some point during the intercourse she tells him she wants to slow down. So he accepts, although “playfully”: they do slow down, but only for a second — quickly after Aziz convinces her to continue. On the inside, she feels a bit uncomfortable with it, but she doesn’t reject it. She goes on with satisfying him. After a while the uncomfortable feeling grows up though. She stands up from the couch, and leaves. Next day she sends him a text. “You were rushing too much, it wasn’t nice. Please reconsider your behaviour with the next girls.” Surprised, he answers that he didn’t know it at that moment. Nevertheless he apologizes. Their relation comes to an end.

Five months pass. The girl sees Aziz Ansari winning an award on the TV. His professional success annoys her so much that she decides to describe their date from her perspective to the public. She does it, and even more: she proclaims it was the worst night of her life and that he forced her to have sex with her.

(Wow wow wow, wait. When and how did he exactly force you to do anything?!)

In response, Aziz Ansari admitted that the situation did actually have place just as she described… but that unarguably it was consensual on both sides, and from his perspective everything seemed okay.

Vox.com says it was “unwanted touching and pressure to have sex during a date”.

(Was it? If it was unwanted, why didn’t she communicate it? Since she didn’t, how was he supposed to know, as she proceeded with the sex anyways? And if there was a lack a communication between them, why anybody tries to paint this social misunderstanding as a crime of sexual assault, which eventually destroys his career and makes him look to everybody like a rapist?)

The public outrage to this accusation was again huge, but in the contrary to previous scandals, this time the feedback was being very various. Some said women like her should be more assertive and firm. Other said that it is not always that easy to say no, and that it is often the men that are bad, by being too egoistic and intrusive.

(Both of those are facts and I agree. Personally, I neither don’t like unassertive women, nor intrusive guys. Actually, the gender doesn’t really matter here that much to me. Any person should be a firm, assertive, but also a polite individual. We should slowly work towards improving it (e.g. by introducing assertiveness lessons to schools). But how come ruining innocent’s people lives is a solution to it?!)

Although it seems like Aziz’s career is going to be fine, it will suffer from this whole accusation for long. The distaste remains. Should we keep on treating every sexual allegation for granted and equally cruel? Basic rules of our law (innocent until guilty; punishment according to the seriousness of the crime) give us immediate answer: No.
University campuses

Sexual violence that has been happening on the U.S. campuses would easily deserve a separate article. I’m bringing it up here because in the last few years the U.S. campuses survived something very similar to what #MeToo movement is generating right now. The difference is on campuses it was happening over longer period of time (since around 2011) as totally separate situations.

Again it was many accusations of sexual harassments, assaults and misconducts. People started to explain that it happens because of the rape culture which still exists in the U.S. that lets students force each other to have sex against their will. (This is when the term called sexual consent gained its’ popularity.) This powered even more accusations to appear. Many of the accused have been penalized immediately by both the public and the university authorities, usually by banning them from the campus or the university itself, ignoring the requirement of proving whether they are even guilty.
Source: The Nation

Upon reading more, university campuses seem to be even worse when it comes to falsy sexual accusations. (Probably because young people tend to less often think about the intentions and consequences of their irresponsible actions, like having sex or claiming false facts.)

For example: R.M. & Bonsu’s case. A pair of young students met and liked each other. Being located in a closed Bonsu’s room in his dormitory, with nobody around, they decided to smoke a joint. While they were chatting the moment felt so great that they started kissing. It felt so great to her that she decided to give him some pleasure and went down on him herself. And then:

She felt conflicted because she wanted to stop — she said she told him she was feeling uncomfortable and thought she needed to leave — but that she also felt bad about “working him up and then backing out.” The encounter continued for a few more minutes, during which, she wrote, he cajoled her to stay — “playfully” grabbing her arm at one point, and drawing her in to kiss — then ended with an exchange of phone numbers. R.M. had not removed any clothing. — Atlantic’s relation

Just after leaving the room, she reported that she had been sexually assaulted.

I dare to ask: In which moment the R.M. actually committed an assault? How exactly did he force her to have sex with him? Since when playfully grabbing your partner’s arm during the sex is a rape? If she had been raped, why would she exchange phone numbers with him afterwards? What if I say “she playfully went down on him out of nothing”? Is he allowed then to accuse her of the sexual assault?

Even more dreadful than the sole fact of naming this situation a sexual assault is the result of this accusation. R.M. has been kicked out of the campus. He couldn’t finish his university. He has been kicked out from all uni public gatherings, together with some Sunday meetups on which he played in a jazz band. All the other public universities rejected to accept him either. All of this basing on a unproved accusation of a situation which hardly can be named a sexual assault.

The linked article described many more cases like that. If you look a bit more, you can easily find more and more sexual allegations like that. Allegations that are far from truth, or unproved at best, which destroyed the accused’ lives totally. In the name of what? Justice? How come is it justice?
Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter

It appears it all started with Obama’s letter to the universities called “Dear Colleague”.

The letter states that schools must adjudicate cases of sexual assault on campus using a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning that the accused will be responsible if it is determined that there is at least a 50.1% chance that the assault occurred. The letter expressly forbade the use of the stricter “clear and convincing evidence” standard used at some schools previously. — Wikipedia

What explanation do you have for such a policy?! If we would judge all crimes of the people like that, all of us would end up in prisons, for the crimes we haven’t committed but been accused of. Nobody would leave their homes in fear of being accused. It’s like, I couldn’t go to bank on myself, because they would accuse me of robbing it. How does such law mean to serve the people? I very like you Barack Obama and I am sure you had good intentions while passing this letter along, but this is just plain wrong.

Criticism on this policy has emerged already in 2013:

The Department of Education’s approach toward adjudicating sexual assault accusations has been criticized for failing to consider the possibility of false accusations, mistaken identity, or errors by investigators. Critics claim that the “preponderance of the evidence” standard required by Title IX is not an appropriate basis for determining guilt or innocence, and can lead to students being wrongfully expelled. Campus hearings have also been criticized for failing to provide many of the due process protections that the United States Constitution guarantees in criminal trials, such as the right to be represented by an attorney and the right to cross-examine witnesses. — Wikipedia

However, nobody fixed it since then. The “Dear Colleague” letter’s policy is still in life. Curiously, seems like it is Donald Trump now who will be the one fixing it, whether we like him or not. (Bravo Democrats, you just gave him a credit of being the right person in the room.)
The problem

Fact: Many people in the US use power to somehow force the others into sex with them.

Fact: For victims it is usually difficult to cope with sexual harassment. In many cases, if victim raises the issue to proper authorities, it doesn’t help the case at all. Often they are not believed or treated seriously. Sometimes causes the victims to be hurt even more, for the sole fact of raising the issue — as the assaulter usually wants to deny the allegations and maybe even revenge himself to prevent them from happening again. Often the assaulter can do all of it because he is more powerful in the social setting than the victim.

Fact: For years the problem of victim’s defencelessness has been silent. Because of the #MeToo movement, the issue has now been raised up to public to be very important.

Fact: Because sexual harassment is difficult to prove in court, the public often penalizes the accused harassers on their own (f.e. by harming the accused’s professional or scientific career). Sadly, this often happens just after hearing the sexual accusation, without checking on their own whether the accusation is true.

Fact: Many people are overreacting to the public sexual harassment accusations, even though they have no insight on the story.

Fact: Many of the sexual allegations are true but not all of them. Some of them are false or there is no solid basis on which it can be claimed that the accused should be penalized.
The solution

Whatever problem we are trying to solve in our life or society, usually the best way to solve it is to first clearly define it and think about all its’ possible solutions. When doing so, we should avoid basing our thoughts on emotions, and instead use common sense, logic, and basic law rules.

Thus, first and foremost, we should define our answers to the following questions:

What really is a sexual harassment and sexual misconduct?
When can we admit that a sexually violent act had place in a given situation?
(Can this question be answered basing solely on assaulter’s and victim’s actions? Should we take into account the victim’s emotions as well? If yes, then how do we define and judge whether it was “an act against somebody’s emotions”?)
Should we assume that every sexual violence accusation is true? If not, how should we deal with unproved ones, which aren’t true nor false yet?
(Since it is difficult to prove sexual harassment accusations, should we be careful in rejecting them? On the other hand, since it is easy to falsify one, should we take believe them right away?)
Should we take into account the gender, race or social class of the harasser and/or the victim?
Who and how should be able to judge the harasser?
Who and when should penalize the harasser?
How can we prevent such acts from happening in the future?

Only after having definitive answers to the above questions, can we start fighting the issue. If not, we’ll have just a mess, not a proper discussion that leads to a solution of our problem.

My opinion is following: we should do whatever we can to prevent sexual violence from happening, but we shouldn’t rush with penalizing the accused in the very first second when the accusation appears. We can take it as a warning about how we should deal with this person in the future, but we need to remember: accusation is just an accusation, and words are cheap. If we penalize every accused person basing just on somebody’s words, many of the allegedly accused will be hurt unfairly. In most of such cases the accused never recovers from the harm he received, nor is even apologized for it. We should remember about it and work on this problem as well, or the accusations will become either too dreadful or just not respected at all.

The answer, in the end, is to ensure dignity and respect in the workplace for women and men, whether accusers or accused. Finding the right balance may not be easy, but it is the only way forward if we are to accept the human — and sometimes sexual or romantic — reality of our working lives. — “Is Office Romance Still Allowed?”, The Wall Street Journal

If Trudeau would only acknowledge this reality, instead of tying himself up in rhetorical knots, he’d do his country, and his reputation, a great service. It would also allow him to begin leading us in an honest conversation about the proper way to reconcile MeToo with the need to ensure due process — including for all those accused men who don’t happen to be the Canadian prime minister. — “‘Grope-gate’ and #MeToo’s Crisis of Legitimacy”, Quilette

P.S. I know that I might cause some outrage within some people with this article.

I was asking myself whether should I be that cynical about all of the allegations? #MeToo movement is doing loads of good to the society by bringing discussion about what is sexual harassment and what is not. Most of the allegations are very probably true and will help penalize the assaulters. And this is good, because if we want our society to be fair to everyone, definitely such crimes should never appear, and if they do, they should be brutally penalized.

False allegations and unjust penalization of the accused help nobody though. An escape from the due process is like going centuries back in the progress of law. It will do the opposite of bringing the fairness and equality into our world. I hope you do understand me and will not prejudge me nor persecute for saying that.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/54706

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