Keep Partisan Politics Away from the Fight Against Sexual Assault
By Jentezen Franklin
Regardless of where you stand on the Judge Kavanaugh situation, we all desperately need to agree on this one thing: We can’t let this spectacle ever happen again.
Taking sides and making politically advantageous decisions before objectively examining any evidence has driven us further and further into our ideological corners. We had already drifted into echo chambers on cable television and on social media. But now I fear people are locking themselves in, and throwing away the key.
Americans need to be able to wrestle with complicated situations in a non-partisan way. We simply can’t be pressured into false choices and extreme swings of the pendulum. Two things can be true at the same time:
1. There are countless victims of sexual assault in this country. It’s a very serious and unfortunately all-too-common reality today. Women deserve better and we must do everything we can to prevent such wickedness.
2. There also needs to be a thorough examination of evidence, handled in a fair and non-partisan manner, that gives due process to those accused. Numerous men have been unjustly sent to prison for crimes they never committed.
If either of these important truths aren’t accepted, we risk several dangerous consequences. If victims of sexual assault aren’t given the time of day and allowed to share their stories in a way that encourages them to step forward, we discourage others from coming out of the shadows and shining a light on this evil that plagues our society.
Every American regardless of political situation must unite to ensure sexual assault is obliterated from our homes and our workplaces. Hearing stories from many in my congregation, as a pastor I’m all too familiar with the pain and heartache this causes both women and men. In recent years, a plethora of horrendous accounts of violence, abuse, rape, and sexual misconduct have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that sexual assault is a dark reality that has run rampant throughout our country. On behalf of my own daughters, and son, I for one am incredibly grateful for the many who have stepped forward to share their stories and help us find a way to overcome.
Likewise, if we don’t deal with the accused fairly, we run the risk of drifting into lawlessness, consumed by passions and emotions for sincerely held beliefs about this cultural issue—and the victims will be innocent people with their lives destroyed forever. As Sen. Susan Collins just recently cautioned, “When passions are most inflamed, fairness is most in jeopardy.”
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens was even more blunt in his diagnosis saying, “Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, repetitional and professional harms that can last a lifetime.” What’s more, Stephens points to the horrifying fact that “false allegations of rape are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime.” This is a frequent injustice, particularly common for many African American men throughout the country.
“I have yet to talk to an accused student, even one who was eventually cleared, whose life wasn’t profoundly damaged; everyone has told me that at some point he considered suicide,” shares Emily Youffe. Youffe experienced sexual assault herself but recognizes how crucially important it is to handle allegations and each case on their individual merits. She recently wrote a t ransparent account of her story in the Atlantic along with a plea to avoid merely “believe survivors” responses as a blanket statement to every situation.
Why someone would be twisted enough to assault an innocent young woman, I’ll never understand. And why someone would be twisted enough to make up a story about sexual assault, that I will never understand either.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of handling allegations of sexual assault outside of partisan politics. If we truly care about combatting this issue, we have to be above reproach in every effort to do so. The ends never justifies the means.
I want my wife, my daughters, my son and my grandchildren to be defended by a just society if they are ever a victim, and I want them to be fairly treated if they ever accused of any wrongdoing. I suspect everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion or political persuasion, would demand the same for their own family.
The freedom for every American to be a part of the political process and express opinions is a beautiful gift. It’s unprecedented across thousands of years of civilization. But politics these days has looked more like a sporting event than a platform for healthy discussion amongst voters and lawmakers; we have loyal fans cheering for their team at all cost, and no one willing to be principled referees.
We can’t get caught in this tribal sensation of “I believe her” or “I believe him.” We need to adopt an overarching sense of objectivity when it comes to criminal matters. Courage and discipline to remove ourselves from inflammatory partisan rhetoric is necessary to arrive at the truth—there’s no way around it. We have to get this right. If we don’t, our republic, our way of life will crumble.
If it wasn’t already so obvious, this past month has confirmed without question that our country needs to heal.
As President Abraham Lincoln so eloquently said in his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds...”
“With malice toward none”—I fear we are collectively failing at this charge. So let’s bind up our wounds, and do better next time.