Amanda Marcotte talks about the value of using a preponderance of evidence standard in the court of public opinion as opposed to a beyond a reasonable doubt standard.
No feminists that I know of have ever in sincerity said that the court should throw out the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in proving a crime. However, as Brady points out, that’s a criminal standard. It’s perfectly reasonable to have other standards for other situations, such as determining if you feel someone in your community is guilty and needs to be shunned as a danger to women. Or hell, just determining if someone is guilty enough to lose a lawsuit. In civil court, a “preponderance of evidence” standard applies. Remember that Allen wasn’t able to get custody of his children—the judge couldn’t prove he assaulted Dylan Farrow, but it was enough evidence that it was reasonable to cut off access to her. As Brady says, once you get out of the formal court situation that has an accuser and an accused and a high standard of evidence, you are in a social situation where it’s more a game of “who’s the liar”.
But instead of rehashing his points, I want to talk about the practical effects of applying the “he said/she said, and we’ll never know the truth so we can’t take action” standard in the world outside the courtroom. You almost never hear about what that means as it plays out in real life, but I’ve had it happen to me, seen it happen to others, and have read about it repeatedly, so I would like to explain how it goes.
How it goes is that he continues as normal and she loses all her friends, basically because he’s still fun and she’s a drag.
This is the price of applying the “beyond a reasonable doubt” level of proof to all accusations of rape or domestic violence made in a community context instead of a courtroom context. It may seem like it’s about not choosing one over the other, but functionally, it’s choosing the accused over the accuser. And maybe some people feel that shunning someone without rock solid proof of wrongdoing is so wrong that functionally shunning anyone who tries to out an abuser without such proof is the price to pay. Maybe that principle is so sound that it’s worth sacrificing the well-being of most abuse victims in order to protect the very rare man who has a cleverly manipulative ex-girlfriend who does manage to convince people he’s guilty when he’s innocent without actually offering proof. I can see it. This is a difficult question.
But I look at the Woody Allen situation and feel that it really shows that preponderance of evidence standard really is a better one for the social situation than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Can you prove it in court that he molested Dylan Farrow? No. But you can build a case, brick by brick, that he’s probably guilty due to his creepy behavior, his tendency to date underage girls, his willingness to use Mia Farrow’s children as a pool to draw sex partners from, his well-documented obsession with Dylan that included molestation-esque behavior in front of witnesses, eyewitness testimony from the victim, and a court order denying him custody. Not by criminal court standards. But by civil court standards. And therefore enough to believe that he really shouldn’t be enjoying the life that he does as a well-regarded fixture in wealthy, privileged social circles. (Or being, as he was, allowed to adopt more daughters.)
I’ve wondered about that. Why was he allowed to adopt more daughters? He was denied custody of the children he’d already adopted; why was he approved for adoption?
Anyway. That’s how I see it. No, I don’t know; no, I don’t personally have the evidence that would convict him; but there is that list that Amanda gives. It seems a good deal more likely that he did what people say he did than it is that he didn’t.