#MeToo and the blame culture
If the #MeToo phenomenon has passed you by then you may need to give your cultural awareness sensors a tweak. Since its launch earlier this week the the six-character tag has been flooding social media networks.
In the wake of the sexual abuse accusations scandal which is sweeping Hollywood and producer Harvey Weinstein at the moment, the hashtag has been an outlet for women from all walks of life to begin to open up about the deep-rooted problems with sexual abuse which exist within society today.
The Weinstein scandal has made front-page news around the world and not a day has gone by when another high-profile person has not come out to add their voice with either condemnation or accusation.
Just one of these incidents would be abhorrent but something on this scale is a shocking representation of what is going on all around us.
And the real problem is this: Were we really surprised?
Was the news that women in Hollywood have felt objectified and used really a groundbreaking revelation to anyone? The reactions have included outrage and condemnation, but disbelief and amazement that the entertainment business could have such a culture lurking openly beneath its glossy veneer did not seem to raise many eyebrows.
The lack of disbelief is, in one respect, refreshing; Those making the accusations are being treated as victims not sensationalist tale-tellers. But the story and subsequent outpouring brought about by #MeToo does push another topic of conversation to the fore - blame and belief.
Like any claim, reports of sexual abuse are always weakened in society's eyes by those who exploit the term without foundation for their own advantage. I would humbly submit that much damage has been done to the public perception of the severity of many terms, including "racism", "misogyny", "homophobia" and countless others, by those who throw the words around without foundation.
The big problem society has, which is deep rooted in the privilege of the top few per cent, is that dismissing claims as lies is easier than addressing the fact such horrors might have taken place. If we can tut and shake our heads while sweeping much of it under the carpet then that is easier than actually dealing with it.
Herein, however, there is another problem - the rush to judgement. This is an epidemic at the moment, with mob rule and trial by internet subverting one of the foundations of our legal system; innocent until proven guilty.
Now, hold on, because I am not suggesting accusers be branded liars until the truth is out and I am not naive enough to think that justice always prevails, particularly in cases such as sexual abuse, but mass hysteria is not a solution to an ignored problem.
Sexual abuse must be treated as what it is: a cancer at the heart of society, a deep-rooted weed which must be plucked wholeheartedly from where it festers. It is a horror which is inflicted upon many more people that we would like to believe. And those whose lives are blighted by it must be treated as the victims of any other atrocity are - cared for, helped and spoken to. By that token, those accused must be treated the same as any other - spoken to, investigated, held up for proper analysis and not condemned until guilty.
The mob rule affects many crimes, but in cases of sexual abuse the fire of public outrage burns fierce - it must, instead, burn long. Thousands have come forward to condemn Harvey Weinstein and he has, rightly, been removed from his high-profile and respected positions as the accusations mount. The start of solving these problems will be for him to be brought to justice for it. A baying mob for three weeks before everyone moves onto another story will not solve this. Justice will. Investigation will. Society would not let a brutal physical attack go unnoticed after Twitter had its fill and the same must apply here.
When I worked at the newspaper there was a oft-used trope when we were asked why we report on court cases: "Part of open justice is that justice is not just done, but must be seen to be done." Shouting about it is not justice, but actual justice throws a proper light on this murky and widespread issue.
If #MeToo has shown us anything it is that the problem of sexual abuse is certainly widespread. The start of a solution is admitting there is a problem; the start of admitting this is a problem is to show those who are guilty of it are low-life and abhorrent dregs operating outside acceptable behaviour, rather than ruffians engaging in "locker room banter". Those who behave like this must be ostracised so that problem is treated as just that, a problem - and a serious one whose existence shames us all.