Now before you bite my head off, the question is a fair one given what the Democratic candidate said in a speech before a “Women for Hillary” event earlier today:
“To every survivor of sexual assault…You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We’re with you.” —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 14, 2015
The vast majority of conservatives and liberals who are deeply concerned about sexual assault will agree with Clinton’s larger point. I don’t think anyone would disagree that victims of sexual assault who come forward have a right to be heard, a right to be taken seriously, and a right to have their claims thoroughly investigated. But Clinton goes a step further and says they have “the right to be believed.”
Well, as it happens, her own husband has been accused of sexual assault. Not once, but several times. And contrary to Clinton’s bold new standard, the media and Democrats alike elected not to believe a single accusation. “In media accounts, [Paula Jones] tends to be portrayed as a trailer-park floozy digging for money and celebrity,” Newsweek admitted back in 1997. Clinton’s own stalwart ally James Carville was just as blatant: “Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, there’s no telling what you’ll find,” he said.
I also don’t believe these women were raped by Bill Clinton, and I know Hillary and many independent observers feel the same way. But by her own standards, Bill’s accusers have a “right” for us to believe them, regardless of our own assessments based on silly things like “facts.”
When it comes to the American criminal system, Clinton is 100% wrong. It’s actually the exact opposite of what’s true; those accused of being rapists in our legal system have the “right to be believed” innocent until proven otherwise. That means the police investigating the crime, the district attorneys deciding whether to prosecute, and the judges and juries passing judgment all have a responsibility to demand sexual assault victims’ claims be backed up with evidence.
That’s the dark side of Clinton’s rhetoric: believing someone by default when they say “I was raped by Jack” also means believing by default “Jack is a rapist.” Even if we assume Clinton wasn’t talking about a legal right, she’s still arguing for a society in which accusations of sexual assault can be used as a cudgel to ruin lives, and asking for evidence is a violation of “rights.” That’s a viewpoint well-connected to the modern Left’s identity politics, but entirely disconnected from the liberal Western tradition of protecting the rights of those we despise the most.
Hillary Clinton knows this. We know she knows this because she defended an accused child rapist pro bono early on in her career. I don’t think that showed, as many conservatives gleefully argued, that she was part of a “War on Women” or supported rapists. That showed how much she respects the rule of law and the presumption of innocence… or at least how much she used to.
But perhaps the most disturbing part about Clinton’s line is that it implies that someone else’s rights can be infringed upon through my independent beliefs. By definition, all rights confer an obligation upon others not to infringe said right. Under Clinton’s formulation, I therefore have an obligation to believe something, because to do otherwise would violate a victim’s rights. The very thought that we should demand evidence of a crime becomes its own sort of crime.
Hmmmmm… thoughts as crimes. Is there a word for that?
Again, this flies in the face of what is — and what should be — the American system, where you have the right to believe whatever the heck you want and publicize that fact loudly. When that right is abused to bully, frighten, or marginalize the victims of rape, their advocates have the same right to challenge and expose the haters and misogynists.
My sincere hope is that this is nothing more than a ill-considered aphorism from the Clinton campaign, and not any sort of serious stance. Because serious political actors like Democratic Congressman Jared Polis seem to believe sexual assault is such a major issue, it warrants a system where thousands of innocent men are expelled, even if the university thinks there is more evidence proving their innocence than their guilt. How much crazier is it to believe the next step is punishing people when there’s zero evidence they did anything wrong?
And let’s be honest… if there’s one person who ought to be championing the presumption of innocence right now, it’s Hillary Clinton.
[Image via screengrab]
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