J.K. Rowling and the Right to Be Innocent Until Proven Guilty
There is no doubt about it – the world is going through a purging, a purging of sexual misconduct among some of our most influential public figures – politicians, Hollywood moguls, and daytime talk show hosts with household names, just to name a few.
I want to say first and foremost that I am not just a woman but also a person of principles and morals (which are heavily rooted in my deep Catholic faith in that every person is to be treated with the dignity that they are made in the image and likeness of God). As a woman, I have endured catcalls and inappropriate advances; I have even found myself in danger of being taken advantage of by a mentor I once knew and trusted. I do NOT under any circumstances condone the mistreatment of others in any way, but…
I have to be a dissenting voice in the outcries against Johnny Depp.
I know my perspective is not a popular one, and I’ve been sitting on the sidelines silently, afraid of the reactions of my peers and coworkers and fellow fans. I believe J.K. Rowling has a point, and I as Hufflepuff need the courage of a Gryffindor to say that and hope that others would hear me out.
I believe that domestic abuse is a problem, and it pains my heart to hear of such cases. However, I also believe that we – as a generation as a whole – have lost sight of what it means to have the right to remain innocent until proven guilty.
I’m not talking about picking sides or victim blaming in the least. With the media constantly making information – correct or incorrect, facts or “alternative facts” – available to the general public, we easily slip into the mudslinging of allegations: allegations against Depp, allegations against Heard in previous marriages… It’s easy to get caught up in a debate that we have no business being in. No matter how much coverage the media gives us, we never know the whole story, or perhaps even the true one, from tabloids.
These are allegations. Allegations are serious, but they are not proof. All we know assuredly is that the divorce was eventually settled and the couple released a joint statement. I feel inclined to believe those close to the situation – closer than any of us will ever be – that what has been done and decided has been concluded with the best intentions for all.
We cannot compare apples to oranges. We can safely deduce that NBC fired Matt Lauer so swiftly and suddenly on more than just allegations, and most likely substantial proof. With all of the mounting witnesses coming forward about Weinstein’s years of abuse, proof is more assuredly to follow. Johnny Depp’s case cannot be placed in the same ring.
On the Internet, it is easy to point out the speck in our neighbor’s eye while being blind to the speck (or log) in our own. It is easy to become impassioned, and also easy to follow that slippery slope into fieriness and verbal abuse through being very opinionated. (Don’t get me wrong – some topics deserve such a voice.) It’s also no longer just the culture of the Internet; it is becoming the culture of generations. Everyone has the right to remain innocent until proven guilty, but we are quick to place blame and guilt until our subject is proven innocent.
As a high school English teacher, I just spent two weeks covering 12 Angry Men with my freshmen. Two weeks convincing them of the injustice of guilty until proven innocent – a mindset in which they were stuck fast. It was difficult for them not to get caught up in the emotions of Juror 3 and Juror 10. They, too, were easily swayed by the 11–1 vote of guilty on page 1 of the play and still skeptical by the time the vote had turned 11–1 in favor of not guilty.
I believe that those who have found themselves in abusive situations should have the support of their community – and in this case, the family and friends of the parties involved as they counsel their loved one.
I agree with the statement given by J.K. Rowling, David Yates’ earlier response to a reporter, and the logic and thorough thought that they have given this situation. They are much closer to the situation than any of us, and I trust them. I also am fully prepared to receive the backlash that they, too, have received but believe that love and mercy and kindness, and even justice, will always prevail.