Fighting for assumed innocence instead of guilt

Photo by Sara Schmitt

There are a few problems with society’s current view of rape. These issues appear on both sides of the issue, whether it be those who do not think the issue of  rape is a problem or those who think it is particularly pressing. However, addressing both sides could probably fill up a book so I will just address one of the problems plaguing those who believe that rape is a notably prevalent issue — the “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. This is the reverse of the  “innocent until proven guilty,” doctrine which, in theory, governs the American legal system, and therefore, must be eradicated in the American populace, plain and simple. In today’s day and age, it seems that this toxic mentality is being applied to criminal cases, specifically ones regarding rape.

Rape is a heinous crime, which is exactly why innocent until proven guilty attitudes must be applied. In the same way that many states have put a moratorium on the death penalty for fears of putting an innocent person to death, people should have legitimate concerns about charging an innocent person with rape.

For those who choose to adopt it, an attitude that involves the assumption of guilt gives rise to many harmful consequences. First, in spreading this mindset it becomes inherently harder to create a fair trial for both parties. The point of assuming innocence until the accused has been proven guilty is that the side of the accuser can bring forth enough evidence to prove that the accused committed said crime.

If guilt is assumed, it will be harder for lawyers to draft a fair jury that knows the rules of court. The more this mentality spreads, the lower the chance of finding unbiased jurors, because people will come in with too many preconceived notions. This, in turn, leads to more innocent people being put away for crimes they did not commit, no matter the type of case. When an impartial jury cannot be drafted, it opens the opportunity for things such as a mistrial to come forth and allow a guilty person to be free, despite any of the crimes they may have committed.

The second problem with the mindset of assumed guilt is that it involves directing hate towards the wrong party. People should be mad at rapists, that is a given. But they should also expect them to receive a fair trial just as any other person would. By coming forth and spreading a biased way of thinking, people are undermining their own right to a fair trial. Any action against the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is an act against the idea of a fair trial for every citizen.

This predisposition towards assuming guilt seems to have been created through the hatred of the outcomes of rape cases, as oftentimes the court does not seem to be on the victim’s side. All too often it seems that the perpetrator gets off with a slap on the wrists at best. However, at this point the people who find rape to be a growing issue should focus on making improvements to the judicial system so that in the future, rapists are put away for a time deserving of the crime.

Finally, it seems that this attitude spreads a general sense of toxicity. Very often, people who think along the lines of guilty until proven innocent do so in an inflammatory manner. While I do think it is a good idea to communicate your point of view, I do not advocate doing so in a manner that antagonizes anyone. Again, some of this antagonizing is deserved. News outlets should not be printing stories about how the rapist is the victim or how this charge will affect the rest of their life. But at the same time, they have an obligation to not drag that person’s name through the mud before a judgment is rendered.

In the end, all I ask is for more people to take a step back and calm down. Assuming one is guilty until proven innocent only feeds into the current unrest.