The sexual harassment revolution is picking up more steam every day. Women are coming out of the woodwork accusing men of abuses from decades past. Up to now most of the accusations have been directed at famous men in entertainment, politics, journalism and business. One wonders whether lesser known men will soon be exposed for major and minor acts that occurred many years ago.
Several things are striking about revelations during the past few months. One has to do with the limits imposed by the statute of limitations. Limits for sexual assault differ between states and certain kinds of acts. Twenty-seven states have some form of DNA exemption that extends the time for prosecuting an offense indefinitely. For instance New York has no limit for rape, criminal sexual acts, aggravated sexual abuse and sexual conduct against a child. Other offenses have a limit of 5 years.
Hardcore abusers should have no time limitations. But what about less serious acts, such as the use of foul language and verbal harassment? These types of offenses have limits in some states. But today, with the advent of social media, abusers could be accused of minor offenses even though they cannot be prosecuted. Public opinion could severely impact minor abusers and result in devastating effects on their lives and livelihood. To be clear this would include actions such as a misstep at an office party that happened many years earlier.
[Writer’s Note: the types of abuse we read about in the press are beyond the pale and deserve serious repercussions that include loss of freedom and fortune.]
A second observation is that a number of men have lost their livelihoods, financial supporters, movie deals and such without due process. It should be noted that some of the accused have fessed up and admitted wrongdoing. Political correctness demands that “accused” abusers no longer be affiliated with corporate sponsors who have been quick to react even in situations where the accused have pleaded innocent.
And then there is “he said, she said.” Today, if a woman says a man did something improper while they were alone, the man’s denial means next to nothing. It is an alleged crime between two people who were alone, and one of them is guilty until proven innocent. Even if the evidence ultimately proves the man did nothing wrong, the stigma of the accusation could have a devastating impact on his life.
Frankly no one is losing sleep over the treatment of the sleaze balls we read about in the tabloids. They deserve to be emasculated professionally and financially. The problem is that the tables have been turned relating to sexual abuse. The women who say they were abused have all the power of society, if not the law, to destroy the accused. Once accused, a man’s life is changed forever, especially if the story appears in the press or on the Internet.
Another issue is that abuse has not been graded by our legal system. When a murder is committed it could be manslaughter, second degree or first degree. These crimes all have different punishments. Sexual abuse missteps need further delineation identifying serious and less serious crimes.
How will all these accusations change the way that men and women meet and fall in love? Seems to me that initial contact and the first intimate experience are high-risk moments for the man. Do we need legal documents before a couple goes out on a date and before they are intimate?
Whatever transpires in the future regarding this topic, I, for one, am supportive of new laws that protect women.