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The Danny Masterson Trial Is When Justice Starts to Look an Awful Lot Like Extortion

(Photo by Annie I. Bang/Invision/AP, File)

On Wednesday, the sexual assault trial of Danny Masterson ended with a mistrial after the jury found themselves “hoplessly deadlocked” and unable to fully agree on the facts of the case.

To be sure, it’s awfully difficult to peg someone with three counts of rape when all you have is your word and a near-20 year gap between the events and your accusation. Danny Masterson may have raped the three women who claimed to be his victims, but their claims raise the same old questions.

Firstly, why didn’t they say anything when it had happened? The three women were Masterson’s longtime girlfriend, a close friend, and a confidant, all of which happened between 2001 and 2003. You’d figure that someone would have said something around that time, but no one did. Like many other accusations like it, this accusation waited until the #MeToo era was hot and a slew of women found out that fame and fortune were just an accusation away. It’s enough to cast doubt on the entire thing.

Secondly, these accusations aren’t helped by the culture we live in today, which had an upswing of rape accusations that were repeatedly proven false. These include the high-profile UVA rape case, which served to highlight just how irresponsible the media was for its readiness to make victims out of attention-grabbers and villains out of innocents.

We were told repeatedly we lived in a “rape culture” but in truth, we were living in a bad reboot of The Salem Witch Trials. A lot of fingers were pointed, but not a lot of evidence was shown. To be clear, I’m certain that rape is an issue in various circles and I have no doubt that Hollywood is infested with it, but false accusations were made in Hollywood, as well.

The issue got so bad that people began turning against the #MeToo movement, and largely thought it had a negative effect on society, rather than a positive one. Some 76 percent of respondents thought false claims were a problem in varying degrees, according to Pew polling.

So, is Masterson guilty? I don’t know.

What I do know is that, as Masterson’s lawyer Philip Cohen said, this wasn’t a trial about whether or not Masterson raped anybody, it was a trial about whether or not the women who claimed he did were credible; and everything right now says that they aren’t.

Just like “Jackie” from UVA wasn’t, just like Christine Blasey Ford wasn’t, just like Tawana Brawley wasn’t, and just like Norma McCorvey wasn’t. There wasn’t any proof but a claim, and that claim should never be enough to ruin a life forever. If that kind of thing upsets you, then I pray no one ever falsely accuses you of something when that accusation is a hot iron worth striking.

These trials are merely popularity contests that take advantage of whichever direction societal winds are blowing, and could end with money and attention. It’s now caused me and many members of our society to ask a question whenever these accusations of a long-ago sexual assault incident pop up. Sadly, that question we ask is not “did he do it,” but rather “what does she have to gain from it?”

This is going to sound absolutely heartless and cold, but I’m glad the Masterson trial ended like it did. The era of accusations without evidence has to come to an end. I hope it does two things. I hope it encourages women who have been raped to come forward as soon as possible. The sooner it happens, the more evidence there will be and the sooner actual justice can be done. Simultaneously, I hope it discourages women from thinking that a rape accusation is something lucrative and that the door to monetary abundance is just an accusation away.

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