Let’s End Sexual Abuse Hysteria

It’s time to consider ways to end the debilitating hunt for relatively minor sexual abusers. The suggestion about to be made will be anathema to those among us who won’t rest until every single abuser is outed and punished. What Americans should consider is that the exhaustive hunt under way is going tear our country apart and divert us from other important issues.

Many bad things have happened to women over the years. Unfortunately we cannot turn back the clock or take a mulligan. What’s done is done. Yet the scope of the search for sexual offenders is getting wider every day. It’s possible that a huge swath of the male population of the country is guilty of major and minor offenses.

The statutes of limitations were in part enacted to prevent the litigation of crimes that are very old. As time passes minor offenses may seem more serious to victims. However the ability to adjudicate crimes of the past is hampered by fuzzy memory and a dearth of corroboration.

Today a comment by a woman about an incident one, two or three decades old could end a man’s career and destroy his family. The rule of law is being set aside as the court of public opinion embraces minor accusations. In this environment a woman may say, “he groped me in 1995,” and the accuser is fired from his job and ostracized.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that violent acts or serial abusers be protected or spared in any regard. The obvious example is Harvey Weinstein who has conducted a reign of terror over helpless women for decades. He’s getting what he deserves from the judicial system and from society.

But for less offensive acts including one-time minor abuses, why shouldn’t society forgive an forget? A principal objective should be to protect women prospectively. This is where our efforts should be concentrated. Crimes of any sort that happen from this moment on, minor or major, should be punished aggressively.

One expected counter point of this suggestion is that abused women would not find closure. I understand and respect this perspective. But it really does matter whether offenses are serious. If a man rubbed a woman’s shoulders, stole a kiss or told an inappropriate joke, should he feel the wrath of the legal system and be dismissed by his employer? There are some that will say yes.

I’m proposing that we continue to root out serious offenders and let minor offenses fade away over time. Let’s focus on the future safety of women. Men who are serial abusers and those who violently assaulted women should not be given a pass. This strategy will enable us to apply more energy towards protecting women in the future.

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