Burden of Proof

I really hadn’t planned on blogging about anything but my current work in progress today, but I made the mistake of looking at the news and following links. As a result, two different stories caught my eye and started me thinking about the burden of proof and why it is important — and how it can be used and abused.

The first case is one that, admittedly, hits home closer than it would have a month ago. It involved nurse Kaci Hickox. If the name isn’t familiar to you, Hickox is the nurse who worked with Doctors Without Borders in Africa treating Ebola patients. She first made the news several days ago when, upon returning to the States, she was quarantined in New Jersey against her will. Long story short, after being held at the airport for several hours, it was said she had a fever. This is something she denies. But the fever resulted in her being transported by a team in full Hazmat gear to a hospital where she was held in a tent in a parking lot. Color her not amused, especially since she was asymptomatic. I can’t really blame her.

Fast forward to today. She is now at her home in Maine but is still under quarantine. She is most definitely not amused and is threatening to go to court today if she is not allowed out. She is passionate in her statements that there is no science to back the quarantine and that self-monitoring is more than enough of a safeguard. She is concerned about how those volunteering to go to Africa to work with Ebola patients will be impacted by what she sees as an overreaction by the government here.

On one level, I can understand her frustration. However, I question the wisdom of allowing self-monitoring. We already have had at least two cases where people who were self-monitoring were allowed to go about their business as they pleased only to have them come down with Ebola, or at least Ebola-like symptoms. In one case, nurse Amber Vinson did contract Ebola and, fortunately, has survived. But her plane trips to and from Ohio from Dallas, her shopping with her bridesmaids, etc., have expanded the circle of those to be monitored. While it is extremely unlikely anyone she came into contact with will contract the disease, there is still the possibility not to mention the mental anguish those who came into contact with her, their friends and family have to go through as they wait for the 21 day incubation period to run.

The second case centers around a doctor in New York. He, too, was self-monitoring. Before he started showing symptoms, he rode the subway, took taxis, went bowling. If I remember correctly, he felt a little under the weather but still went out because he wasn’t symptomatic yet. Now New York is looking at the same questions and concerns Dallas has been for more than a month.

I wish I could believe self-monitoring would work. Unfortunately, I have two problems with it. The first boils down to human nature. We can agree to something with all the good intentions in the world. But we may get distracted or it just isn’t convenient to stop whatever we’re doing to take our temperature. We might feel a bit under the weather but, without showing a temperature, we shrug it off because we “aren’t symptomatic”. Even if that person does become symptomatic and does get to the hospital quickly for treatment, there are other consequences than exposure that happen. There are economic and social consequences. Let’s face it. Humans are not much more than herd animals and it doesn’t take much to cause us to stampede. We are already seeing this in Dallas. Mass transit stations are being closed down when passengers get sick. Restaurants that have been community fixtures are suffering simply because they have “Africa” or “African” as part of their name. So, applying common sense, we need to look at all the implications — positive and negative — when it comes to allowing self-monitoring.

The second problem I have is one resources and how those resources impact the self-monitoring and reporting. If a community only has one person — or even just a couple of people — it isn’t that difficult to have someone making sure the person being monitored reports in twice a day. But, as Dallas found out, when that number expands from just a few people to more than 100, that becomes more difficult. And, let’s face it, it doesn’t take much for the group to be monitored to blow up into triple digits.

I sympathize with Ms. Hickox. However, I think she needs to consider something beyond her own desires. She needs to think about how, just this moment, Ebola is the big monster under the bed for our country. Instead of threatening law suits and such, she should be using her time instead to educate the public. It is obvious she has a public platform. Right now, she is a media darling. She could document what she is doing and why — and why it is important for anyone who has been potentially exposed to be aware of how they are feeling. She could describe the safeguards they took in Africa to protect themselves and talk about how those can be put into play here. Most of all, she could help take away some of the fear of the disease instead of screaming “Sue!” as she waits for her test results to come back.

Moving on. . . .

The article that really got me thinking and stirred the blogging juices was this one. I know nothing about the situation it talks about other than apparently some Canadian broadcaster has parted company with his employer and has taken to social media to get his side of the story out first. From what the article says, I’m assuming he is blaming everything on a former girlfriend. I don’t know the facts and basically am not here to debate them. What I do have thoughts on is this:

The focus on innocent-until-proven-guilty shifts the onus back on survivors to prove that a sexual assault ‘really’ happened.  ‘Picking sides’ (or supporting survivors?) is cast as irrational and hasty, with neutrality held up as the ideal.  Due in part to this tendency, survivors of sexual assault don’t think they’ll be believed, or they fear that ‘concrete proof’ will be demanded of them—even by friends and family—and often they’re right.

I’ll start by acknowledging there is right and wrong in the above statement. But let’s take it from the top.

I don’t know about Canada but in the States, the burden of proof has always been on the State (or the accuser in civil cases) to prove the offense happened. Yes, there was a time — and, unfortunately, it still happens all too often — when there was an attitude that the girl asked for “it”. Cops and prosecutors and judges looked at what she wore, looked at her past history, etc. Fortunately, that attitude is changing. It doesn’t make it any easier for a lot of women — and men — to report sexual assault. But to say the attitude is the same as it was 100 years ago is wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to take sides unless and until I know the facts. I’ll admit that I’m jaded. I know women of all ages who have cried “rape!” all too often just to get back at a guy. I also am tired of women who don’t have enough backbone to stand up for themselves when a guy gets handsy and just say “Stop!”. Then, if he continues, a well places slap, grab or knee can come into play. Playing the victim card doesn’t help anyone and it does make it harder for the real victims to get the help and sympathy they need.

I have no use for any man — or woman — who commits sexual assault. I’m all for a one time punishment that would make sure they were never capable of hurting another person again. But then I’ve seen first hand what that sort of a bastard or bitch can do to a child or another adult. There is a reason even cons hate sex abusers, especially child abusers.

However, sexual assault has been diluted by the SJWs and their ilk. Yes,I know. I’ll be decried for that statement. I’m sorry, but walk a mile in my shoes. I am a rape survivor. I’ve worked with rape and incest victims. Someone placing his hand on my ass isn’t a sexual abuser. He is an ass who is very likely to pull back a bloody stump if he tries to touch me in a way I don’t like a second time. But I’m off topic here.

One of the founding premises of this country at least is that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That doesn’t always make it easy on the victims, but it is better than requiring the accused to prove their innocence. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: if your teenaged son is accused of having non-consensual sex with his girlfriend — or anyone else — would you rather have the State have to prove the charges against him or you have to find the resources to pay for the full investigation and medical tests, etc., to prove him innocent while the State only had to respond to the evidence you put forth?

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. Back to work on the edits of Duty.

About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.

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