Geek Feminism Wiki

Innocent until proven guilty is a part of the United States Judicial System in which it is argued that any harmful action that did not result in a criminal conviction must not result in any repercussions to the person who was accused of committing the action.

It is based on the same principle that is held central in many legal systems.

Problems with this stance include:

  • not all harmful actions actually being illegal in the first place (for example, many jurisdictions only make sexual harassment an offense in the workplace, if then)
  • the considerable time, energy and monetary burden assumed by victims who report harmful acts, in interacting with the police, lawyers and the judicial system
  • evidence of considerable underreporting of harm to oppressed groups, lack of prosecution when reported, and low rates of conviction when tried
  • the nation-state is a very powerful entity, typically having effectively unlimited financial resources and reserving the right to commit violence to itself, against which almost any individual person has a considerable disadvantage. It makes sense to hold such an entity to extremely strict burden of proof in exercising its power, relative to, say, a geek conference or meetup!

In practice, this system is essential to a judicial system in a government to perform properly. Supposing it was reversed (guilty until proven innocent), suing an entity would be easy as it is difficult, in law, to disprove an event occurred.

Related stances include, eg, the position that accusations of harassment events should be tried in an open public hearing of community members or before an informal jury, etc.

See also

  • Name and shame for the pros and cons of publicly disclosing harassment and abuse.
  • Fair trial for suggestions that geek communities should set up their own court-like systems for dealing with harassment or abuse.

Further reading

  • Wikipedia: Presumption of innocence for the legal principle
  • Community Safety by Christie Koehler
  • The ethics of outing your rapist by Jill Filipovic: "… while we live under the rule of law, we don't live in a court."
  • Woody Allen's Good Name by Aaron Bady (CW: discussion of rape, abuse, and gaslighting of victims): 'But "he said, she said" doesn’t resolve to "let’s start by assume she’s lying," except in a rape culture, and if you are presuming his innocence by presuming her mendacity, you are rape cultured. It works both ways, or should: if one of them has to be lying for the other to be telling the truth, then presuming the innocence of one produces a presumption of the other’s guilt.'
  • 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty': Notes for the Peanut Gallery by nina de jesus: excellent illustration of how the supposedly-impartial concept of "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" is contorted to protect those with privilege.
  • Jian Ghomeshi, Sexual Violence, and the Presumption of Innocence: "… the presumption of innocence should extend to all parties involved. The presumption of innocence does not mean that you should assume that these women are lying about being assaulted until proven otherwise."