Yesterday, in the midst of hourly comics I got wrapped up in a whirlwind of Twitter activity. This is beyond the amount of attention and response that I’ve ever gotten before and it’s thoroughly upped my respect for the people who get subjected to these on a regular basis just for speaking their truth. It started with the link to New York Times publishing a piece by Dylan Farrow on the sexual abuse she faced at the hands of Woody Allen a couple decades ago. This was being tweeted about in series by the talented and outspoken Ayesha A. Siddiqi and I was compelled to respond with my own thoughts on how Allen was being defended by largely white men who didn’t want to have their admiration for the man challenged.
@pushinghoops "Innocent until proven guilty" extends to "victim is lying until others decide she is telling the truth"
— Khrisnege (@khrismonegenege) February 1, 2014
This garnered a large response – more favorites and retweets than I have ever seen before, and a response from not just Siddiqi herself, but from others who challenged the point. The argument largely put forward was that it’s up to the objective and unbiased justice system to declare allegations to be true, and therefore we do not know the truth.
I wasn’t even referring to the justice system directly. Obviously “innocent until proven guilty” comes from that, but I used the phrase as a source of the victim-blaming sentiment that continues past a trial. I wasn’t going as far as calling for Woody Allen to be tried again and convicted. If that went through the courts, with the lawyers he can afford and the bias on not only his side as an entertainer but also as a white man, he may very well get off again. Courts aren’t flawless and the justice system we have in place isn’t objective and unbiased. Cases like this shouldn’t end at the courtroom door. We need to keep talking about this, to keep calling for those who are privileged to answer to their charges, and to empathize and understand the victim’s story instead of discounting it because the books say that any person who appreciates his neurotic American Jew humour would give him the benefit of the doubt.
It was very difficult to get my point across within Twitter’s character limit, so much of the argument I just left alone. A lot of that has died down overnight, so even what I write here will be incomplete. The argument that something didn’t happen – or put more slyly, that we can never know if it did happen – because it didn’t pass conviction in a court of law is an argument to silence victims and dismiss their credibility, with nothing but positive consequence to abusers. Outside of court we have every right to publicly discuss the issue with the spotlight on questioning the innocence of the abuser. No conviction is not binding on public dialogue meaning the case is closed. Outside of a courtroom we may weigh the evidence differently than a judge did at the time, and we have that right. The victim has the right to speak out. The people have the right (and nearly the obligation) to listen. We have a moral duty to empathize where empathy is needed, and to take to heart how what we do affects things. Glorifying the filmmaking of Allen lets him get away with having a terrible character, and every instance of his public acclaim tortures a victim who has been pushed aside as less important than our desire to be entertained.