Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

The baying mob seem to have already decided a guilty verdict after the face of a student accused of rape was plastered all over Facebook today

If you’re a student with access to the internet, you’ve probably heard about the Manchester University student being accused of rape. Perhaps you shared his photo online, in a misguided attempt to see the perpetrator of a horrible sexual offence apprehended. Well, if that’s all that matters, you got him. Congratulations, you may have successfully ruined a potentially innocent man’s life.

Before I go any further, I’d like to make this absolutely clear. If it is proven in a court of law that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, then I’d like nothing better than to see his overly excitable testicles placed in a vice. Rape is a deplorable crime, symptomatic of a man with the mistaken belief that he has the right to make decisions for a woman. But…

If he isn’t guilty, his photo was just shared across the majority of the student populace, and indeed national news. Thousands upon thousands of people saw his face next to a detailed account of the offense, and will instantly have marked him down as a rapist, as scum. Without expensive plastic surgery, his face and name will forever carry that association – hardly one that’s easy to shake. Even if it is later decided that his ‘victim’ was falsifying the accusation, her identity is protected by statute. Him? Well, we all know who he is, and what he’s done. He’s the rapist, isn’t he?

He’s in police custody as we speak, no doubt answering their questions and trying to get to the root of the accusation. What could have been an innocuous one night stand is now being dissected by the masses in every sordid detail, and the presumption of innocence is in tatters. I’m not in any way suggesting that his accuser shouldn’t have the right to level such a charge, but it’d be nice if he stood a chance at a fair trial rather than being damned by a baying mob before his story has been heard too. It’s quite a delicate diplomatic tightrope to walk, but hear me out. Innocent until proven guilty- that means don’t share his photo with comments such as ‘If I ever saw him down a darkened alley’, ‘sick fuck’ and the like. Those are just two comments I saw perusing Facebook today; I can guarantee there were far more.

The thing is, it is a hugely taboo subject. Millions of women that suffer a sexual assault don’t report it, either because they fear that their story won’t be believed or that they’ll suffer for the crime of being violated. In some parts of the world, women that are raped can be imprisoned, for ‘asking for it’. I’m glad we don’t have that, but the whole issue leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If you get raped, come forward- the perpetrators of such a heinous crime deserve punishment. But next time you see someone’s photo being shared as a ‘rapist’, stop for a second. Innocent until proven guilty. That should remain paramount.