Date: November 09, 2018
“The #MeToo movement, along with other previous movements and hashtags, has opened up vast resources online that help victims of sexual assault seek justice, network with allies and other survivors, and recover emotionally from their trauma. This is all to the good. But as Chloe’s case helps demonstrate, these same resources can also be used as tools to create a realistic backstory out of whole cloth.In 2016, a young British woman admitted, after just a few minutes of cross-examination at trial, that she had manufactured a sexual-assault complaint against her father, using the lurid plot of Fifty Shades of Grey as her source material. The father might well have been convicted if he hadn’t mentioned to his lawyer in passing, just a day before trial, that his daughter’s favorite book was, by his recollection, “about a millionaire who takes a young woman under his wing and ‘teaches her about art.’”
Likewise, if Chloe hadn’t promoted her interest in sexual-assault prevention on social media and recorded videos about her activism, how would the evidence in her case have come to light? The prosecutor and police reportedly didn’t research any of this in detail before the case went to trial; and when issues were raised by the defense, the Crown made no effort to examine or provide exculpatory evidence. Indeed, the court transcripts indicate that the prosecutor’s behavior was so outrageous that the judge warned about possible contempt charges. Yet this episode produced no social-media outrage, despite the fact that a likely innocent man might easily have gone to jail.
And then there is the matter of statistical recording, a subject that has garnered great interest in the #MeToo era. How will the outcome of this trial be officially recorded? By official Canadian measures, it will be classified as “withdrawn or dismissed charges”—a category for “cases where all charges were withdrawn by the Crown (prior to the entering of a plea by the accused) or dismissed by the court. These decisions all refer to the court stopping or interrupting criminal proceedings against the accused.”
Which is to say: To the extent that the outcome will become known to the public at all, it will be classified as an incomplete trial. It won’t be recorded as a false accusation. Just the opposite, in fact: Journalists who report in this field will cite this data point as an instance of injustice to sexual assault victims.
The #MeToo movement has drawn appropriate attention to historically ignored injustice. Thousands upon thousands of real sexual-assault survivors have come forward to tell their stories and seek justice. But all movements, no matter how virtuous in intent, open up unintended misuses of their cause. In this respect, #MeToo is no different. Web sites such as Project Unbreakable, notwithstanding the good intentions behind their creation, can serve as a resource kit for dishonest complainants. And in such an environment, the emotional and political reflex that leads us to automatically “believe the victim” will sometimes cause us to cheerlead the imprisonment of innocent men.”