One outlier shouldn’t dismantle our belief in victims
Jussie Smollett was arrested this morning. Chicago police say he filed a false report when he claimed he was attacked by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs last month, and early today, the Empire star turned himself in.
Smollett has been charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct.
If #JussieSmollett orchestrated this scam and claimed he was attacked because he’s black and gay, the real tragedy will be all of the victims of REAL hate crimes whose stories won’t be believed. pic.twitter.com/XIWwXazg5L
— Victor Blackwell CNN (@VictorBlackwell) February 17, 2019
This Jussie Smollett story is pretty disappointing. Not only cause it’s a shitty stupid thing to do, but all he has done is make it more difficult for future hate crime victims to have their stories believed and validated.
— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) February 21, 2019
He still maintains that the event did happen as he reported it, and his lawyers said in a statement, “Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Even though it seems like a bad path for #JussieSmollett now, I still believe there is a glimmer of hope for it to NOT be a lie. Regardless of the outcome, no one should feel regret having supporting him b/c you should always believe a victim.
— Leo Acero (@LeoAcero) February 21, 2019
Jussie Smollett has now officially been criminally indicted for filing a false police report. His lawyers are negotiating his surrender.
Truly a disappointing series of events. This only makes it harder for real victims to be believed going forward. Shameful.
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) February 21, 2019
It’s true. Smollett is an American citizen, which gives him the right to the presumption of innocence until he’s proven guilty in court. But even if Smollett did lie, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t believe victims.
If #JussieSmollett did what he is accused of, he needs to go to jail.
So does Trump. So does Kavanaugh. One person lying does not mean we do not believe victims.
— Ben Jackson (@DadoftheDecade) February 21, 2019
People are going to use this highly public example to try to say that victims of hate crimes, of sexual assault, of rape, shouldn’t be believed. But they should. We were right to believe Smollett. Victims deserve our belief and support.
The reality is that false reports of crimes are rare. There aren’t a lot of actual statistics about the rate at which crimes are falsely reported, but Brian Levin, director of The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, told reporters in 2017 that false reports make up a “sliver” of all reported crimes.
“We do routinely see a very small number of hate crime hoaxes but we also see hoaxes with respect to arson and auto theft and even reports of sexual assault, yet we don’t say the overwhelming number of reports of those crimes are hoaxes, either,” he said.
Jussie Smollett could have lied about being a victim of a hate crime and there are many real victims of hate crimes in the United States. Both statements are true. https://t.co/enxlejJrN7
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) February 21, 2019
A much larger problem is the number of hate crime that go unreported — the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that more than 100,000 hate crimes are committed in the U.S. each year that aren’t reported to the police. The fear of not being believed is something that stops victims of hate crimes and sexual assault from coming forward. That’s why we can’t let this stop us from continuing to believe victims.
I am sad for Jussie Smollett. I am sad that people will use his allegedly false report to discredit other victims and survivors of hate crimes. I am sad that queer and trans people of color and Black people are being attacked and killed for simply existing. I am just sad.
— Evette Dionne 🏁 (@freeblackgirl) February 21, 2019
This doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist. This doesn’t mean victims shouldn’t be believed. This means this person is very troubled. https://t.co/uMPWYf7mI4
— Rachel Barnhart (@rachbarnhart) February 21, 2019
Already, the online criticism is coming for people who publicly stated their support for Smollett, that they believed him. Those people should not be criticized. Smollett has not been found guilty, and even if he eventually is, no one should be criticized for believing a victim.
Here's the 'Jussie Smollett is a victim' tweets from all your favorite Democratic members of Congress…
Just gonna… put these here. pic.twitter.com/qubpzSguiF
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) February 18, 2019
No matter what happens in Smollett’s case, that needs to be our takeaway. If Smollett lied, he committed a crime, but justice will be served. We cannot impede future justice by letting this color our view of survivors who come forward to seek it.