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COMMENT | Does the Roxanne incident highlight an ugly truth amongst us?

Should the accuser of abuse always be believed? Writer Scott looks at how Roxanne Pallett’s actions may set back victims of abuse.

Roxanne.

For those of you that have not been following the whole thing here is a summary of what the Roxanne incident is. And for the record, I don’t follow Big Brother, but having watched and seen all the footage on this incident, it resonated with me as it’s something that affects us all.

Roxanne in an ‘episode’ of Celebrity Big Brother accused Ryan Thomas of punching her live on television. The accusation was repeated more than once with Roxanne stating that the action by Ryan was abusive and deliberate in nature. For those that watched the scenes and subsequent scenes, it was made clear by Roxanne that Ryan was deliberate in his actions and that it was, in essence, abuse.

The footage captured by Big Brother showed a different version of events but the whole thing has highlighted several issues that affect the LGBT and straight communities alike. The main one, which everyone regardless of sexual orientation agrees is a big one, is that Roxanne was able to make these accusations and, without the benefit of the cameras, everyone would have believed her. Ryan would then have been condemned as a violent man (even though he was clearly innocent).

Roxanne and Ryan.

The phrase “there is no smoke without fire” has been bounced about and this is a direct challenge to that, typically very British attitude, as it appears there indeed can be smoke without fire. The world is not as absolute as we would like to believe it is – but that isn’t something (especially in today’s climate) that we like to hear!

In recent years a debate has done the rounds about accuser and accused anonymisation. For those that haven’t seen this argument, this basically looks at extending the privacy protections for the accusers of abuse to the people being accused. That way there cannot be a trial by social media or the press (or even public opinion). Instead, the case goes to court and after the trial, it is decided what should be released, especially if the person is found not guilty.

This argument hasn’t really gone anywhere as there is still a strong belief that the accuser should always be believed. Having worked with matters like this before in a previous job, it is a difficult area to agree on a final solution for. However, this incident with Roxanne has injected fresh life into that debate as it has made it very clear and very public that people can, and often do, get things wrong and this something occurred when it did not.

Personally, I am of the belief that we all live in our own little worlds and see the world in our own way. Our reality is not someone else’s reality and versions of events often get distorted by our emotions, prejudices and internal values. Even in everyday stuff, one person said it happened like this and another person says it happened like that. This incident is a golden reminder of that and strikes at the heart of who we are and how we all live with and work with each other.

Victims of abuse should always feel able to report what has happened and get the support they deserve but the system (and indeed the public) should be mature enough to establish the facts first and ensure a crime doesn’t end up occurring because someone has been believed completely when they were wrong.

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This also highlights the power that a simple accusation can have. As someone that has had an unsavoury accusation thrown at me in the past (which was factually proven to be false) accusations alone can destroy lives. One of the things I hope does come of all this is that people do think before making claims public BUT that also doesn’t stop genuine victims from speaking out. It will always be balanced but it must remain a balance and not too much one way or the other as then nobody wins.

For the LGBT community, this affects us most as one of our more well-known service/charities for supporting domestic abuse victims (Broken Rainbow) closed down a few years ago. Their work was phenomenal in supporting male victims of abuse but this dedicated service is now gone and instead, we have a fragmented service across the Police, Social Care and Health. In Manchester alone, from April 2017-2018 Manchester Police recorded 775 cases of LGBT Domestic Abuse just for their force alone.

There are, however, still a number of organisations out there aimed at the LGBT community some of which I’ve listed below;

LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership – https://lgbtdap.org.uk/

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Stonewall – https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/criminal-law/domestic-violence

GALOP – http://www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/

Independent Choices – http://www.domesticabusehelpline.co.uk/our-services/lgbt-service/

This argument won’t get solved overnight but if there is one positive side to the fuss of the last couple of weeks is that this discussion is on the national debate again and hopefully people will think before acting as judge, jury and executioner when anyone is accused and we let truth be our masters, not trial by mob!

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