Melania Trump’s views about sex crimes are “destructive,” says CNN
Headline Health | Opinion – CNN is reacting harshly to Melania Trump’s advice to women who claim to be victims of sex abuse.
The First Lady is advising women that victims of sexual assault “need to have really hard evidence” if they expect their charges to have traction.
Mrs. Trump is essentially bucking the “MeToo” movement’s theme that sex assault victims have a right to be believed. Instead, she says, they should be listened to, taken seriously, and asked to produce evidence.
Evidence is essential in any judicial proceeding, and innocent-until-proven-guilty is a cardinal rule in American jurisprudence.
Sex crimes are no exception; they are not a special class of crime in which evidence is optional and the accused must prove their innocence.
Sex crime victims often have valid reasons for not coming forward immediately with their accusations, often because their attackers hold positions of higher power. However this does not diminish the rights of the accused under the law.
While our legal system has its own faults and limitations, trying sexual assault victims in the court of public opinion – or in non-judicial proceedings such as a congressional hearing – is ineffective and unfair to all concerned.
As seen in the recent Kavanaugh proceedings, the MeToo movement has chosen to politicize sexual assault. What matters in a sexual assault case or in any allegation of criminal activity is the truth, not the politics of the accuser or the accused.
It’s making the search for the truth take a back seat to political agendas that’s “destructive” to the rights of all.
CNN’s report is below.
Melania Trump’s destructive message to sex crime victims
Elie Honig, CNN – In an interview with ABC News, first lady Melania Trump said that victims of sexual assault “need to have really hard evidence” before coming forward.
She added, “I do stand with women, but we need to show the evidence. You cannot just say to somebody, ‘I was sexually assaulted’ or ‘you did that to me’ because sometimes the media goes too far. …”
The hypocrisy is jarring. Trump proclaimed that she “stand(s) with women,” yet, in the next breath, opined that sex crime victims should not be believed unless they produce independent corroborating evidence for their allegations.
In fact, Trump badly misconstrues how sex crime cases and investigations actually work. At the same time, she sends a dangerous message that threatens to discourage sex crime victims from coming forward to hold their attackers accountable.
Trump’s statement is problematic because it distorts the law. Simply put, testimony is evidence. A core purpose of any trial is to elicit testimony and to enable the jury to evaluate the credibility of the witness.
By her words, Trump promoted a problematic misconception that witness testimony — particularly if that witness is a victim of a sex assault — should not be believed, or should not be believed enough to visit consequences on the accused.
To the contrary, the law places great weight on the testimony of a witness, even if that witness stands alone. Judges commonly instruct juries that even the testimony of one witness, if credited, can be enough to convict a defendant in a criminal trial beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof known to our legal system — and that’s even in the absence of other corroborating evidence.
Trump’s comments also are wrong from an investigative perspective. Law enforcement officers, and the public generally, do not expect victims of other types of crime to hunt for and obtain independent evidence … Read more at CNN.
Elie Honig is a former federal and state prosecutor and currently a Rutgers University scholar. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.