By Jarred Bogens-Francisco
In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last 6 months or so, you might have heard names in the news such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Larry Nassar, or even Aziz Ansari. The most recent name to be added to this list is Las Vegas’ own Steve Wynn. Besides this blacklisted group of once mighty, now fallen men there has also been the metoo movement, #metoo, Times up, and the Women’s March, which recently took place on January 21 and originated a year ago.
So what does this have to do with you? Hopefully, not much; however, if you or someone you care about has been a victim of sexual violence, no matter how small or severe the experience may have been, then everything mentioned thus far probably is a bit more significant. According to the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website, “Every 98 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics)
The one guy whose story, has certainly led to a vociferous debate about sexual assault and misconduct is Aziz Ansari. According to the original story on Babe, posted on January 13th, an unnamed female photographer basically claims that she went on a date with Ansari, he then ignored both verbal and non-verbal cues, and tried to force her into sex, repeatedly. Now, did Ansari do anything wrong? Unfortunately…I do not know. The only two people who will ever know what actually transpired that night are Ansari and his accuser. I think the most important aspect of this particular case is making sure that there is clear communication, no matter how awkward communicating in the moments of passion may be. There was an interesting conversation on an NPR radio show, Here and Now, that originally aired on January 19th with Cindy Pierce. This segment specifically mentions the Ansari controversy, along with all the implications and complications involved. (http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/01/19/aziz-ansari-sexual-culture) One of the interesting, and ironic, facts mentioned is that Ansari actually wrote a book about dating in our social media laden age.
The main reason, I decided to write this piece was because I had heard Ansari’s name mentioned both on the radio, and TV, but I did not really examine it more closely until I happened upon a post in my Facebook feed. The person who posted it even made the statement while posting this, he was aware that he might be opening himself up to attacks but he was concerned for the guys who might end up getting falsely accused and having their lives or reputations ruined. By now, everyone must realize that the critical problem with the court of public opinion, unlike a court of law, is that a person is usually condemned as guilty, while being accused, instead of going through a fair and balanced process that considers all of the relevant evidence. Although, if an accused party starts having multiple, or dozens, or hundreds of accusers. It is difficult to simply say that they did nothing wrong.
Still, the reason for this battery of difficult material is because I don’t want anyone, especially someone who believes they are a nice, decent guy to end up on the wrong side of an accusation. It may be considered pathetic to be alone on Valentine’s Day; although, having your significant other decide to tell you something along the lines of “I think, we should see other people.” or, the more direct, “It’s over.” is probably worse. Yet, being arrested and/or put in jail, along with the scrutiny inherent in a criminal investigation makes either of the two previously mentioned alternatives seem preferable.
I am assuming most people have been on the wrong side of an accusation at one point in their lives. No one likes being accused or blamed for something, especially when later it is proven that you have done nothing wrong. At one of my jobs I once told a woman who I thought I was on friendly terms with that she looked nice; I literally said, “You look nice.” On this particular occasion, she was in more formal attire than she usually wore and we’d been working together for about a year. A few hours later my boss took me aside and asked me if I said something to this co-worker. I mentioned that I complimented her and she told me, “Well, she said that you said she looked hot.” Thankfully my boss told me not to say anything else to her and later, I should have kept my mouth shut but instead congratulated this same woman, and then mentioned how I didn’t realize she was pregnant. This turned into me calling her fat. Needless to say, I certainly think twice before I compliment any woman. There are two good things I can point out in this story: 1) It happened before Harvey Weinstein and sexual assault were openly spoken in the same sentence and 2) I didn’t have any complications at this job because of this misunderstanding.
I realize that many women, and men, have probably suffered in silence and watched as their perpetrators, went about with their lives carelessly moving onward, and perhaps upward, likely continuing their predatory behavior. Yet, our society needs to protect the innocent, as much as punish those responsible. The unfortunate truth is despite all the best efforts and intentions, an innocent individual will likely end up convicted and punished. However, no matter how fast the news cycle moves or how many assumptions are stated as facts. The critical axiom of innocent until proven guilty must not only be upheld but worked through vigorously.