Harvey Weinstein - Abuse In Plain Sight
The revelations and allegations emerging about the sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein make headline news of a wider trend in re-examining the historical behaviour of abusers, and prosecuting offenders. In England and Wales, 1 in 5 of every criminal prosecution is now a sexual crime or domestic violence offence. Many of those cases, whether historical sexual assaults and controlling and coercive behaviour or more contemporary offending, involve examining what has happened over many months or years, often reaching back to explore the wider behaviour of an offender.
It is a necessary if often difficult task. Such criminal cases have been notoriously challenging for prosecutors, whether needing to myth bust or because of the often uncorroborated evidence. Prosecutors are becoming bolder and more innovative - for example giving broader consideration to the use of bad character evidence and witness testimony from children as young as two.
Yet as the Weinstein case reminds us, the apparent willingness of society and individuals to turn a blind eye to abusive behaviour is at odds with an increasingly proactive state investigator. The Crown Prosecution Service may be willing to lead the way when it comes to bringing offenders to justice, but too little is being done to empower local agencies, especially schools and social services, to intervene before so much lifelong harm is wreaked.
It will need the empowerment of a generation of young people, to see real change. We kid ourselves if we are fooled into thinking we are merely seeing the sexism or misogyny of the 70's unveiled. The power and control at the heart of so much sexual harassment, assault and domestic violence is not a relic of the past, but is in plain sight too often. We should all be willing to call it out.