#MeToo and the Presumption of Innocence: how can we believe victims and protect the legal rights of accused at the same time?

This conversation was born from a question: does assuming that the accused is innocent mean assuming that accusers are liars? And, in contrast, does believing a victim’s story without an investigation mean denying the accused of their presumed innocence? Does ‘innocent until proven guilty’ inherently favour the protection and rights of one gender above the other?

In this podcast, we explore the apparent gender-based differences in the ways that people experience the legal system. We question who has the power to define a ‘credible victim’ in the eyes of the law and in the broader community. We also wrestle with the fundamental question of how ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘sexual assault’ are defined (and are being redefined?) by society.

Truth be told, I don’t think we were able to definitively answer the question, “How can we believe victims and protect the legal rights of accused at the same time?” But hopefully the ideas and perspectives shared here can contribute to the broader discourse. This is a topic I am sure deserves further analysis, and it is one to which we will doubtlessly return again. As always, if you have perspectives to add to this dialogue, please get in touch or, better yet, share in the comments below. Curious to hear your thoughts.

The Panel

Kelsey Adams (@kelskadams) is a Social Media Coordinator at ANOVA, which provides safe places, shelter, support, counselling, and resources for abused women, their children, and all oppressed individuals.

Lesley Bikos (@lbikos) is a former police officer and PhD candidate in Sociology at Western University. She researches the intersection of gender and workplace culture with a current focus on policing and police reform.

Mark Henshaw (@MarkHenshaw) completed his Master’s thesis on the topic of engaging high school boys on the issue of violence against women.

Leah Marshall is a social worker and the Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor at Fanshawe College.

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