Feminists often argue that women are inherently subjugated to men due to men’s average larger strength and size. The ##MeToo movement (with its other hash tags #believewomen #believevictims) seems to imply that the presumption of innocence should be set aside in accusations of rape or sexual assault. The reasoning appears to be: Why wouldn’t a man just take what he could? He’s bigger! We all know sexual abuse is so common!
But if the gap between the physical strength of men and women is wide, the gap between women and children is much wider. A woman who has become angry or is drunk or high or having a bad day could easily injure, torture or kill an infant or child and with much more ease than any man could attack a woman, and also much more secretly. In an altercation between a man and woman there are at least two adults to give witness, but between a woman and a child there might only be one verbal party. Or a woman could neglect a child in her care and be guilty of horrible torture simply from not doing something vital.
Who is more vulnerable, women or children? If we think children are more vulnerable, shall we proceed with issues of child abuse the way feminism seems to want us to proceed with cases of male sexual abuse of women, placing greater physical size and strength at the heart of the argument?
According to the CDC 54.1 percent of abuse and neglect against children is perpetrated by women. Because removal from the home into foster care is not always better our welfare system should proceed on the presumption of innocence. The removal of an infant or child from a loving home is abuse in and of itself. The government should not perpetrate exactly what it is attempting to prevent.
If you have to take your toddler into the emergency room with a strange bruise or laceration or worse, you will want the team of professionals there to work on the presumption of innocence. As the #MeToo movement gains steam and the notion that we should simply #believewomen or #believevictims is unchallenged, we endanger the vital notion of the presumption of innocence for everyone. As the presumed guilt of the physically stronger party becomes a given in our culture, women may find themselves on the wrong end of a witch-hunt: Why wouldn’t she abuse? She’s bigger! And child abuse is so common!
The strong can and do oppress the weak. But no one occupies either position always, not even children. We have all seen the child having a meltdown in the grocery store. In that situation, who is stronger, the mother or the child? The answer is the one with the stronger will at the moment. And sometimes, depending on the day the mother has been having, it could be the child. If you think in terms other than muscles, men are not always stronger than women, just like women are not always stronger than children. Assuming the physically stronger party is always more likely to be guilty is absurd.
In our zeal for justice for all, men and women and children, we should not destroy the presumption of innocence. In the face of great evil, our first duty is to refrain from making things worse.
Katherine is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania.