November 15, 2018 | ° F

MAENNER: Victimhood must not be politicized


Opinions Column: Maenner's Musings


HunterMaenner

Since allegations of numerous instances of sexual misconduct arose in early October against famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a wave of additional accusations against other well-known public figures has come out, detailing the perverted nature of many of those in positions of power and authority within our society. 

The list of those accused — made up predominantly by men — reads like a "who's who" of popular culture, with prominent names such as Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck and Louis C.K. being alleged to have committed immoral and wrongful sexual acts. The widespread nature of this movement has not just been confined to Los Angeles, though. Sexual misconduct charges have also been made public about civic leaders in Washington, D.C., illustrating just how deep these problems lie within the power structure of American society. But while the current societal environment is filled with a newfound sense of understanding and empathy towards victims of sexual assault and harassment more so than at any other time in recent history, the same attitudes of victim shaming continue to persist, especially in the realm of allegations against political leaders. In fact, on both the Right and the Left, allegations against politicians are in many cases seen with partisan blinders, with charges against opponents used for political gain, while accusations against allies are met with suspicion and doubt.

For those on the Right, a divide has formed within the Republican Party on the hot-button issue of whether to support Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama. While Moore has been adamant in rejecting the claims that on multiple occasions he pursued sexual relationships with underage women, he has also had to deal with the revelation that he wrote in the yearbook of one of his accusers, who claims that he sexually assaulted her when she was just 16, as well as the fact that he has publicly stated that he first noticed his now wife when she was just 15 years of age. In response, some Republicans, such as sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), have made it known that they will support the Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the Senate Race, yet others such as President Donald J. Trump have taken to attacking the accusers of Moore, even as evidence mounts against him. And even after Trump was quick to jump on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), accusations came to light about him. But this behavior is not surprising coming from Trump, who has made it a tactic of his to disparage those who accuse him of sexual misconduct, despite his comments caught on tape by Access Hollywood in which he admits to the very behavior he is accused of. 

On the other side of the aisle, though, many of the same shortcomings that have plagued Republican reactions to these sexual assault allegations are also present in the Democratic response, especially in light of the recent resignation of Franken, which has sparked politically-charged backlash by the very people who preach the importance of believing victims of sexual assault. Leeann Tweeden, the most prominent accuser of Franken, has had to endure a barrage of doubt from the Left based on her Right-leaning politics. In fact, some have gone to great lengths by digging up old videos of her, including one where she smacked Robin Williams on the backside at a United Service Organizations event, claiming that her past actions invalidate her present-day accusations. But while this information does not serve any bearing on her allegations against Franken, the more troubling part is that this kind of character assassination of a victim is the very behavior the Left has demonized in the wake of the shooting of unarmed black men, such as Michael Brown. 

Moving forward, it is apparent that the broad reach of politics within American society has brought with it the harmful and corruptive forces that have already long plagued our political system. Now, in the era of inter-connectedness we are as disconnected as ever, with society segregated on the basis of everything from race to political persuasion. The proliferation of tribalism within American society has resulted in people being more concerned with the well-being of subgroups, rather than the well-being of society as a whole. Even in a period considered to be the best for people to open up about their past experiences with sexual transgressions, the isolation within society has bred contempt and distrust for all those who are different, victims or not. It is no surprise then that so many victims decide to stay silent instead of speaking out for fear of being victimized again by public opinion. Until society takes steps to de-politicize sexual assault allegations, there will be no room for understanding victims, only judging them. 

Hunter Maenner is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in criminal justice and political science. His column, "Maenner's Musings" runs on alternate Mondays.

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Hunter Maenner

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