MINOT, N.D. - For years now I've often earned no small amount of criticism and derision for suggesting that victims of sexual harassment and assault should speak up contemporaneous to the events victimizing them.
My argument is that it can be extremely difficult to ascertain the truthfulness of those sort of accusations years and even decades later. What's more, silence allows the perpetrators of sexual misconduct to carry on with their lives free of consequences.
The rebuttal has been that it's difficult for victims to speak out. They may not be believed, for one thing. There could be ramifications for their careers, and even their personal safety, for another.
Those are fair concerns, but as we can see now from the flood of high profile accusations which have been making headlines for weeks, when victims speak out real change can happen. I hope one of the lasting ramifications from this #MeToo era is victims feel as though they can speak out when they're victimized.
As I write this, news is breaking about Minnesota Senator Al Franken allegedly groping and kissing broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden during a USO tour in 2006. Tweeden said Franken forced his tongue into her mouth while rehearsing a skit which featured a kiss between the two. She also provided a photo of Franken grabbing, or at least pretending to grab, her breasts while sleeping during a flight.
The latter is certainly caddish behavior, at the very least. The former, if true, probably meets a reasonable definition of assault.
But there's the rub. Did Senator Franken really force his tongue into Tweeden's mouth? How many of the other accusations we've heard in recent weeks are 100 percent accurate? Or even totally free of embellishment or exaggeration?
We don't know, really.
That's a problem.
I suspect that most of the claims are genuine, but if there were ever a time to launch a false accusation to settle a score this would be it.
Because almost nobody - certainly not the press or the public in general - is doing a whole lot to consider the situation of the accused.
Can you imagine being accused, in the current media environment, of some misconduct you weren't actually guilty of?
Let's hope that's not happening, but we can't carry on as though it hasn't. Or won't.
I am glad that victims are speaking out. I am glad that powerful and abusive men such as Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore are finally getting a comeuppance.
This feels like justice. It feels like progress.
But if there is anything which could unravel the good currently being done, it's #MeToo turning into a witch hunt and hurting innocent people who haven't earned those sort of consequences.