On Due Process

[Content Note: Rape culture; harassment.]

NOTE: As I was writing this, Al Franken made a statement on the floor of the Senate in which he announced that he is resigning from the Senate. I will have more on that later. In the meantime, there will surely be much more conversation today about "due process," so this piece is still, and possibly now even more, relevant.

It is the height of ofcourseness that I spent yesterday, the day on which many progressives were uncritically heaping praise on TIME magazine for making "the Silence Breakers" their Person(s) of the Year, being shouted at to shut the fuck up by progressives who are angry at me that I won't give Al Franken a pass.

Naturally, I was informed in response to the above tweet, it isn't because I refuse to give Franken a pass, but because I don't care about due process.

Three things about that:

1. If you haven't already read this terrific piece by Ijeoma Oluo, please do: "If there's anything these stories show, it's that these men in their years of open abuse were given more than just due process — but the women, many of whom had tried bringing this abuse to those in authority years before, were given no process at all. ...Due process. Women would love ANY process. They would love to even be heard."

2. Due process for criminal consequences and due process for professional consequences don't — and don't have to — look alike.

3. "Due process" doesn't mean what a lot of people seem to think it means, especially in cases like those of the now 8 women who have come forward with allegations against Franken.

As Ana Mardoll has observed, Senate ethics investigations are not, in practice, interested in delivering justice, but in shielding Senators from justice. When people are informed of this demonstrable reality, and continue to insist that a Senate ethics investigation is "due process" nonetheless, what I hear is someone who isn't interested in justice, but in seeing Franken exonerated and his accusers publicly dragged.

I understand that many people who haven't spent the last 13 years writing about the rape culture may not understand as keenly as I do that "due process" for people who have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted is vanishingly rare, and that many systems ostensibly designed to aid survivors effectively act instead to protect abusers.

So I am willing to explain to folks how this shit works. But when I do, and when they refuse to acknowledge that there is currently no such thing as meaningful due process through official channels for most survivors of harassment and/or assault, that's an agenda. And it isn't a victim-centered one.

It's also, not incidentally, an agenda that centers marginalized men who are historically most at risk for being railroaded. Many white progressives are masking their rape apologia behind hand-wringing about Black men being falsely accused of sex crimes against white women. But in the modern era, the wrongful prosecution and conviction of Black men virtually always happens in stranger rape cases where women didn't know and couldn't identify their attackers. They are railroaded by police and prosecutors. Not by survivors.

That is a serious fucking concern. And it's actually a bigger risk when cases are investigated by law enforcement. Public accountability movements significantly reduce the possibility of Black men being railroaded for crimes against white women they did not commit.

Those details matter to me. So don't tell me that I am interested in "mob justice" (which is a shitty way to denigrate public accountability movements) and don't care about "due process."

I am a survivor who went to police with a handwritten letter from the guy who raped me talking about how I cried while we "had sex" and a handwritten poem called "Raping [Then Last Name]," and that still wasn't enough to convince the police to even investigate him, no less for him to be arrested and tried.

Trust that I am interested in both meaningful justice and meaningful accountability.

And because I understand how the systems we believe will deliver those actually don't, not to mention because I am a prison abolitionist, I am profoundly supportive of rigorous public accountability.

Then there is this: The "due process" that most people have in mind doesn't exist. And pretending as though it does abets abusers.

I want no part of that.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus