Justice needs victims to act promptly

We’re sure that those who advocate for victims of crime in our society would say that these fellow citizens deserve sympathy and understanding. Some, including those who are victims of sexual assault, may also feel ashamed or embarrassed, although, of course, they have done nothing wrong. They may not wish, however, to come forward to detail the crime and go through the criminal justice process.

We can understand all of that. It makes sense. But we also know that those same victims’ advocates would say that for perpetrators to be stopped, victims must somehow muster the courage to make their crimes public. They have to file complaints and need to do so immediately. In sexual assaults, victims themselves may be evidence. The perpetrator’s DNA may still be present on them.

Yes, this is all ugly and harsh to think about, but necessary, especially given the #MeToo era in which we live. We are all learning that many assaults may have been hidden for years. Individual victims may have felt entirely alone, not aware that others too suffered. The collective knowledge has strengthened the resolve of many to step forward.

But this has also created problems. Justice demands certain things. A presumption of innocence. Evidence. Corroboration. Perhaps witnesses. A speedy and fair trial.

As parents worry about their daughters — and sons — in this new era, we all need to help them. To our sons: Behave honorably and be aware that you could be accused for something you do. To our daughters: Be aware of your surroundings. Be extremely cautious in situations when alcohol is served. Avoid being isolated from a larger social setting. And if you are assaulted, it’s not your fault! Be prepared to come forward and get help right away. Support your friends who do come forward.

Good people want perpetrators of crimes to be held accountable. But the proper time to do so is right away. Otherwise, the justice involved gets blurry, to say the least.