OMG did you see the news about Ed Westwick?
What a piece of crap. I hope he dies. His career is over. If you’re defending him you’re part of the problem. She’s so brave. He should delete his account.
If you spent more than about 20 seconds on Twitter today you’ll have seen that the actor Ed Westwick, best known for his role in Gossip Girl, has been accused of assault on Facebook by a young actress. It’s a terrible, sad story. People on Twitter are very angry about this.
1 – put down your pitchfork, and
2 – give me a break
To make it absolutely clear before I go any further, I am of the opinion that sexual assault is a Bad Thing. I also tend to think that people who commit sexual assault are Very Bad People indeed.
I would hazard a guess that it’s very hard for victims of sexual assault to come forward. That too many victims are belittled and disbelieved, and suffer grossly unfair damage to their careers and reputations. The legal system does a poor job of supporting victims of sexual assault, much of the time.
But, But, But…
I also believe that people should be assumed innocent until proven guilty. I believe we all have the right to a fair trial. I believe we all have the right to not be libelled (that’s why newspapers use the word alleged in pretty much any crime story that precedes an actual trial verdict). I believe we all have the right to be treated in a way that is lawful.
If you believe in those basic rights, you have to believe in them for EVERYONE. Not just for the people you like, or whose behaviour you think you’ll approve of.
And if you believe in presumed innocence and not libelling people (remembering that libel doesn’t necessarily mean your accusation isn’t true, just that you made it, and can’t prove it to be true) then HOW is it okay to join a Twitter mob and “take down” someone who could have done something terrible?
If we are Good People then – I reckon – we don’t repeat allegations, we don’t share them, we don’t assume them to be true and wish dire consequences on people.
The issue here isn’t who’s lying, and who’s telling the truth.
Because none of us know that. The awful thing about sexual assault is that often it’s one person’s word against another, and it’s a complex, drawn-out process to understand who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. That’s why police and court systems exist – to investigate crimes, collate evidence, and allow a jury to reach a verdict based on the balance of that evidence.
Still don’t agree with me?
Let’s imagine one day someone really, really hates you. And they publish an allegation about you online; something criminal. You assaulted someone, you’re a fraud, you’re a thief.
What happens when that allegation impacts your job? Your family? Your health? Your children?
Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. But you’re not in court, so how do you defend yourself? How do you stop the ever-increasing spiral of rumour and gossip? It’s like trying to fight smoke.
My suggestion? If you don’t want it to happen some day to you, or someone you love, don’t do it to other people. There are other, smarter ways to support victims of sexual assault.
- Volunteer at a Women’s Centre to support women contacting the Women Against Rape campaign.
- Donate to The Survivors’ Trust, which supports people of all races, genders and ages who are victims of sexual assault
- Donate unwanted items to a local Women’s Aid, who can use them to support women seeking to escape abusive relationships
- Use Savoo when online shopping to support Survivors UK, who support male victims of rape and sexual abuse