A few weeks ago I wrote about a very thorny subject, one that ended up raising more questions than it answered. I talked about the impending introduction of Sarah’s Law into our neighbourhoods and how everyone would be affected.
There was one topic that I touched upon briefly that has been playing on my mind lately. That of the innocent.
What happens when an innocent person is accused, subsequently vilified and punished for a crime they did not commit? Do they ever manage to rebuild their lives?
There have been numerous stories in the media lately of men accused of date rape and how their lives, and that of their families, have been torn apart when it has been proved that the alleged victim invented the allegation. The accused’s reputation is then tarnished beyond repair. Their name is often published in the media, but the name of the accuser isn’t. Their ability to find work is severely hampered, if not made impossible. Their lives are never the same again. The ramifications are endless.
Mud sticks, as they say.
Likewise, I saw an interview recently with a woman who was accused of raping her married lover. She was 5ft, he was over 6ft and worried that his wife was about to find out about their affair. He went on to admit he made the whole thing up. The woman lost 4 stones in weight, is now a virtual recluse and lives with the shadow of fingers pointing at her every day – even though she was innocent! He was not punished at all and yet she has to now try and rebuild her life knowing that, as unlikely as this particular case may seem to the majority of sensible minded adults, some people continue to think that she’s capable of such a heinous crime.
So where do we draw the line? How do we distinguish between the guilty and the innocent? Who are we to judge?
When we look at someone, what do we see? Gender, race, hair colour? But when we look a bit closer, what do we think we see? We can’t tell by looking at someone what job they do, or whether they’re a parent. If they prefer football or rugby. Whether they’ve ever had a parking ticket. Or been imprisoned for abusing a child, or beating a woman black and blue.
And yet, people feel they have the right to judge and decide for themselves who someone really is. Then they tell someone else, and then another person and so the Chinese Whispers begin. But this is so much more serious than just a playground game.
What of the person wrongly vilified? What of that person’s family? Imagine for one awful second the thought of someone thinking that you repeatedly beat your spouse. Or that you abuse your children.
Unthinkable? Stomach churning? Sickening, right, let alone totally unfair.
Imagine not being able to get a job because someone, somewhere, took a dislike to you just because they were scared of someone who happens to be different to them, and they then started rumours about you that were totally unfounded and unforgivable. Think about how the quality of your entire life would be affected. Your relationships with people. Your ability to trust. Your ability just to ‘be.’
Imagine someone having the audacity to start rumours about you or your loved ones, and everyone following suit like a herd of sheep.
You’d feel justifiably furious, wouldn’t you? Everyone you then come into contact with you will look at you with slanted eyes and wonder whether the rumours about you were true.
And so the judgement continues.
Day after day, snap judgements are made of people all around us who don’t deserve it. Who did nothing wrong but be wrongly judged by the masses.
Isn’t it meant to be innocent until proved guilty?
My point is this. No matter how well you think you can read a person, you will never know by looking at someone whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ So there’s no point even try to guess at it because the damage done just from one small minded person’s decision to judge harms more than just the accused.
The best we can do is learn, not judge. Put yourself in the unenviable position of being the wrongly accused and think about how your life would never be the same again. And just stop and think.
Everything in the Government’s power should be done to punish the guilty. As long as they are guilty.
But please stop the judging and leave that to the Judge.