In the case of the two women who have accused Patrick Brown of sexual misconduct, it will be interesting to see if his defence team follows the age-old tactics that are used to defend men accused of sexual assault. The public can be easily fooled by a slick PR strategy that capitalizes on the fact that nobody wants to believe their “good” guy has a bad side. From his latest behaviour it’s obvious that Patrick Brown now has a defence team in place whose first order of business was to repair the damage Brown did by showing weakness when he resigned. They would likely have advised him that showing strength scares witnesses away and showing weakness attracts witnesses to pounce on him. There are four key tactics used to defend men who are charged with sexual misconduct.
- Absolute denial combined with hints of defamation charges: The accused is usually advised to come out loud and strong, denying everything and suggesting legal action. This is designed to gain public support – the public naturally follow someone who shows strength – but it is also designed to scare witnesses from testifying. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of public opinion or get into a costly defamation trial. If the perpetrator can get public opinion on his side, and convince people he’s going to sue for defamation, witnesses will crawl into hiding. Patrick Brown has now come out strongly denying everything and suggesting he’ll sue CTV for defamation. Yet CTV claims they have not been notified by anyone from Brown’s team. Which indicates he is simply bluffing to scare witnesses into hiding. If he doesn’t sue them, it’s a strong indication that there may be some truth to the allegations. The first woman who alleged Patrick Brown assaulted her at a party said that she attended it with a friend, but now the “friend” doesn’t remember being there with her. I’m told this happens a lot when public shaming occurs. Witnesses feign memory loss and make themselves out to be unreliable because they don’t want to face public shaming or stand up beside a victim who is being shamed. They would rather abandon her than tell the truth. We assume people will defend the truth, they will do the right thing because a just society needs people to stand up for the truth. The sad fact is few witnesses do, unless forced by the courts in a defamation trial, or criminal investigation. Personally, I believe that the women who accused Patrick Brown are victims of his misconduct and victims of the court of public opinion (which can be even worse). I find it highly unlikely that any woman would come out had she known in advance that her friend wouldn’t stand up beside her. That a very weak man calling himself her “friend” has backed out of defending the truth is the real shame. That kind of immorality eats away at a person, I hope she takes comfort in the fact that his shame will haunt him for the rest of his life.
- Blame the victim: This includes attacking her entire history and showing her as promiscuous. I have no doubt the next stage of Brown’s strategy will be to get social media focused on the background of both his accusers. They may try to “slut” shame them or create the idea that these victims somehow set Patrick Brown up as a political stunt. This serves two purposes. It will stir up hate on social media and it will protect him from other witnesses who may be thinking of coming forward. Now is the time women, who may have similar experiences with him need to stand up for the truth. We must come together to push social change forward, and build a just society for our children.
- Elicit sympathy for the man accused: This is the next stage that Patrick Brown will need to work at. Sympathy isn’t as easy to achieve for a powerful man as it is for a younger man. Remember the case of Brock Turner who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster? His legal team tried to focus on his accomplishments and the bright future he had ahead of him – they suggested the victim’s accusations would hurt Turner’s future. The same is being said about Patrick Brown. The victims are now being accused of ruining his future in politics, no thought or comment is given to their futures, and his media supporters would have us all ignore that Brown may have tried to force himself on two intoxicated women.
- Promote Doubt: By promoting enough doubt, the perpetrator aims to steer the focus off of the facts and onto the unreliability of the women involved. Evidence will be distorted, past events and statements taken out of context, their friends questioned, and witnesses scared into hiding – anything that will discredit the woman is fair game. Distorting evidence equalizes the victim and the perpetrator. The Toronto Sun has now come out with a story claiming Patrick Brown is innocent simply because one of the victims got the timing of the event wrong – the timing doesn’t change that he might have forced himself on her while she was intoxicated, or that another woman stated that she too had a similar experience. Both accounts suggest a predatory pattern. That he had an intoxicated woman employee alone in his bedroom is the issue everyone should be questioning. What employer would be fool enough to do that?
Memory of an event is usually triggered by the emotion a woman feels when facing sexual assault or misconduct. They might feel angry, or powerless, and it is that memory that stays with you no matter how much you try to forget it. Women who have had such experiences usually tell and warn their friends about it. The timing might blur and details surrounding the event might fade, but the actual event itself and those feelings of anger, frustration, and helplessness don’t fade away. Every time you hear about another woman experiencing sexual assault or misconduct you are reminded of your own experience. To jump to the conclusion that the women were lying simply because one got her timing off, or because one of them was friends with a reporter doesn’t explain why Patrick Brown took an intoxicated female employee to his bedroom. These other issues are designed to promote doubt.
The media seems to be glossing over an extremely important issue that is highly questionable, and something the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are trying to address. That Patrick Brown, or someone on his defence team, may have started a social media campaign designed to shame his two accusers. This attack campaign released the names of the two women over social media. When it comes to sexual assault or misconduct the standard practice is to protect women who report the incident from backlash until an investigation has concluded. Most employers know this and take extra effort to protect their identity and create a safe work environment for all women. Why hasn’t the Ontario PC party called for an investigation into this? Why hasn’t Patrick Brown called in an outside investigator?
By identifying the women by name over social media, has Patrick Brown’s team crossed the line from civil to barbaric?
In a sexual misconduct or assault case, the perpetrator will often come up with a parallel story to explain why they were with the victim, and/or to fool the public into thinking them innocent. For example, Patrick Brown originally denied categorically that any of the events the two women spoke of had happened. But his former girlfriend has come out saying she watched him go to his bedroom with the woman employee, and then come down later to immediately drive her home. What girlfriend doesn’t think something is wrong when her boyfriend rushes out of the bedroom with a drunk woman and immediately drives her home?
I expect Patrick Brown’s strategy will involve all of the tactics above. The sad fact is that even if the women’s allegations are proven true, the court of public opinion has already shamed them, and once the masses take a position they don’t want to be told they were wrong. Most people won’t remember that these women were forced to endure pubic shaming and social media attacks just because they came out with the truth. The public still sees strong women who stand up to powerful men as suspect, as women who “rock the boat for attention” – instead of women who are trying to stop powerful men from abusing their positions.
Social change is coming, but it will be a long time before the public understands the personal cost women endure by speaking up to protect others.