The Observer

Filed under Columns, Opinion

McCall: Abuse victims are not a threat to due process

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

In the early hours of Feb. 10, President Donald Trump tweeted the following: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused-life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

This tweet was most likely a response to the accusations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter, a White House aide at the time of the allegations. Porter resigned in the wake of the reports.

However, what Trump is coarsely characterizing here as “mere allegations” against Rob Porter are actually claims of domestic abuse by two of Porter’s ex-wives, both of whom presented evidence in their favor.

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, presented photographic evidence of a black eye evidently caused by Porter. Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, mentioned the temporary protective order she obtained while she and Porter were separated.

Nevertheless, Trump thinks the stories are “mere allegations.” Really? Poor Rob Porter, losing his job as an aide because his ex-wives accused him of abuse. Yes, his life is now shattered.

Except it isn’t. Porter isn’t the victim here. He’ll be back to work in no time, and probably with few repercussionsand, despite Trump’s lamentations on Twitter, Porter certainly has no need to worry about any violation of his right to due process. The town sheriff isn’t going to burst into Porter’s home, “guns a-blazin’,” and drag him off to jail without a trial.

His ex-wives’ lives, though, were permanently marred by the psychological scars of physical abuse. Yet the president of our nation has the bright idea to tweet a veiled defense of Porter, implying that the claims of Porter’s ex-wives are false? Is he saying that Rob Porter was falsely accused?

My contention is that Trump is implying Porter’s innocence. Especially given the timeframe in which the tweet was posted: Porter resigned on Wednesday, Feb. 7; news outlets and social media went crazy over the story; then on Feb. 10, Trump posted the tweet quoted above.

Just one question: Can someone tell me why it took a week for Trump to state publicly that he is against domestic violence (he didn’t do so until Feb. 14)? Shouldn’t that have been his first response, instead of jumping to Porter’s defense on Twitter?

However, Trump’s tweet doesn’t just reveal his poorly veiled support for Rob Porter. Trump probably isn’t just talking about Porter here. In fact, it seems to me that Trump is lumping together the allegations against Rob Porter and the #MeToo movement (which is primarily about workplace sexual harassment and abuse).

That being the case, I believe Trump’s tweet highlights his stance towards the #MeToo movement in general: Don’t believe these women. Don’t believe these “mere allegations.” Unfortunately for Trump, though, the days of not believing women’s allegations seem to be coming to an end. Hopefully.

Even if President Trump isn’t talking about the #MeToo movement in his tweet, though, it is nonetheless upsetting and concerning that his first response to allegations of domestic abuse against one of his aides is to defend the aide. Especially given the evidence that Holderness and Willoughby, Porter’s ex-wives, provided.

In criminal cases (say, murder, to take a classic example), the burden of proof typically lies with the accuser. If I accuse a stranger on the street of murder, they are not taken to jail and given the death penalty. That’s what the Due Process clauses in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments are meant to protect us against. Instead, I have to prove that my accusation is the truth. Only then is the stranger convicted.

When it comes to allegations of abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment, though, it’s a different story. Too often there is no concrete evidence of the offenseall we can rely upon is what the victim describes and what the accused says in response. It’s story against story. That’s one reason, I think, why allegations of abuse and assault and harassment can become so contentious.

But that doesn’t mean we should disregard the accusations as mere hearsay. It just ` means we have to be more careful and thoughtful when evaluating the stories, and I believe that entails giving the accuser or victim a little more benefit of the doubt than they would get in other cases (like the murder case described earlier).

I don’t think this is necessarily detrimental to the person being accused; rather, it just shows the victim that we respect them. It shows that we care. Even if that has no bearing in a court of law, I still believe that’s important. It at least gives the victim a chance to tell their story and let it be heard without criticism or disbelief.

When two women come forward claiming domestic abuse, thoughone with a black eye and the other with a restraining orderthat’s hardly hearsay. We better believe them.

Tom is a second semester fourth-year student studying cognitive science, philosophy and math. Check out his other poorly written pieces on his Medium blog.

Leave a Comment

In an effort to promote dialogue and the sharing of ideas, The Observer encourages members of the university community to respectfully voice their comments below. Comments that fail to meet the standards of respect and mutual tolerance will be removed as necessary.

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source
McCall: Abuse victims are not a threat to due process