The phrase 'innocent until proven guilty' originated in the Declaration of Independence (Image via ThoughtCo)

Are People ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ or the Other Way Around?

While the famous mantra ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is used in the U.S. court system, does it serve any justice toward everyday people and relationships?

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The phrase 'innocent until proven guilty' originated in the Declaration of Independence (Image via ThoughtCo)

While the famous mantra ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is used in the U.S. court system, does it serve any justice toward everyday people and relationships?

The famous mantra “innocent until proven guilty” has both served and failed those who have been sexually assaulted in dressing rooms with no security cameras. In some cases, the presumption of that line has worked well in the alleged accused’s favor since the prosecutor needs to prove that the individual has been guilty of a crime.

Therefore, the standard of proof is considered very high, unless the case becomes high profile, in which social media and the public’s opinions intervene. Unfortunately, the presumption of innocence has been harmful to those who were unable to find evidence for traffic tickets or sexual harassment cases.

The practicality of the mantra can be up for debate. After countless let downs from acquaintances and loved ones, people eventually find themselves feeling ashamed that they have let a person casually into their world to only be disappointed by them. Eventually, they may start following the mantra “guilty until proven innocent.”

“Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

This is the main method executed in our flawed justice system, not saying the system itself is entirely flawed for doing this, but it does vary in the principles that it upholds.

In the Sacramento Bee News Report, it pointed out that the #MeToo Movement, a social media movement in which well-known actors and actresses used the hashtag #MeToo to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, demonstrates just how professionally dangerous it was for women to take on powerful men with accusations of sexual misconduct.

Of course, there are people who would make alleged accusations to either increase their own wealth or climb up the ladder. What do those who have actually suffered through abuse do when they have no footage since they were cornered in their dressing room?

Prior to the #MeToo Movement, countless women confessed that the famous American film producer Harvey Weinstein had aggressively sexually assaulted them. This movement illustrates that sexual harassment is not something new, but something that has been brushed under the rug for years.

In terms of creating relationships or new bonds, following the belief that someone is worthy of your trust until they have proven that they are not, I consider this mantra to be similar to the concept of being vulnerable. So, what’s wrong with vulnerability? After all, you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and sharing the silliest or even most embarrassing stories about yourself.

In the TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brené Brown, a University of Houston research professor, points out that vulnerability is often seen as a weakness, but it’s actually a strength. You are allowing yourself to develop more intimate relationships by giving others a platform of relatability and empathy.

Aside from that, you’re also creating a step forward to your relationship with your significant other and other potential close friends.

Of course, there will be people who take advantage of your vulnerability, but what they have done despite your willingness to share says more about them than it says about you. Although you feel naïve or even foolish for trusting those individuals who hurt you or betrayed your trust, you should not blame yourself for trusting them.

On the bright side, this eventually becomes a foundation for yourself of what to not expect from relationships as well as setting standards for your future — or maybe even current — relationships. Overall, it becomes a learning experience with possibly more or less downfalls depending on who you meet.

“Guilty Until Proven Innocent”

Some consider the mantra “guilty until proven innocent” a brutal presumption since it can be detrimental to those who have been falsely accused. For instance, in Southampton, England, Bitterne Park School student Jay Cheshire hung himself after being released from a rape charge when the victim dropped the allegation.

It was reported that the vulnerable student had struggled to cope with the accusations. Starting at age 13, Cheshire began visiting a psychiatrist, but doctors found that his improvements showed no need for cognitive behavioral therapy.

Unfortunately, in this case, when being falsely accused of rape, not only does this damage the individual’s public reputation but it also damages their self-image along with mental health. Even after release, a person’s public image is still ruined for a while, which can lessen their chances of finding a job and establishing new connections.

Not only can the mantra deter future heartbreaks by cutting off possible future liars and backstabbers from your life, but it can also serve as a hindrance to intimate relationships. When practicing this principle, I was told that some people viewed me as someone rather secretive, distant and even cynical.

I realized that the mantra was detrimental to my growth since I had closed myself off from inviting potential close bonds, which could have expanded my horizons. It hit me that I shouldn’t be afraid of trusting others, as each setback was another challenge to get back up.

Ultimately, following the mantra “innocent until proven guilty” or “guilty until proven innocent” is your choice. Don’t feel ashamed for choosing the latter when others begin to see you as a cynical prick. It is essential that trust and respect be earned. All in all, the choice is yours and the journey of uplifting experiences and let downs have more to come.

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Ellyot Chen

Pasadena City


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