We all have to be aware that victims of sexual abuse, assault and harassment are legion, and that each story about a new victim or victimizer potentially impacts all survivors. We know that stories on spouses who flee domestic abuse, for example, routinely inspire other victims to seek help and shelter. That’s why careful media coverage of the recent spate of stories matters so much.
We also have to recall, however, that false allegations do happen. The late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese was wrongly accused of molestation by a young man who later recanted his terrible charge. The Duke Lacrosse Team was unjustly prosecuted. Rolling Stone infamously defamed a University of Virginia fraternity over an alleged gang rape that did not happen.
It’s a delicate balance between the reality of vast numbers of assaults and a few terrible false charges, a reality that can only be dealt with by close attention to facts and due process, not only in the courts but the media as well.