What happens after men apologize for bad behavior?

When justice fails, that leaves the door open for revenge. And the justice system has been failing women for a very, very long time

‘In the court of public opinion, where revenge is free to reign.’ Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/Rex/Shutterstock

At least their apologies are getting better. Men accused of harassment and assault seem to be learning from the backlash over previous, inadequate apologies made by men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, and are issuing more eloquent and sincere-seeming mea culpas.

Louis CK’s “there is nothing about this that I forgive myself for” and Senator Al Franken’s admission of shame seem to have deflected at least some of the outrage their original actions provoked. But we have to ask: what comes after the apology? What professional and personal repercussions are an adequate and proportional response to these accusations?

The whole point of a justice system is to intervene, set standards, and rebalance wrongs

It is important that we begin to have this conversation, because the accusations are not stopping and many industries are struggling to figure out how to respond. All kinds of predators are willing and eager to step into this chaos and uncertainty and use it to their advantage.

When justice fails, that leaves the door open for revenge. And the justice system has been failing women for a very, very long time. Violence against women, particularly these more intimate forms of violence like rape, domestic abuse, stalking and harassment, has been and is inadequately investigated and prosecuted, from the lack of enforcement for restraining orders to disbelieving victims to untested rape kits left to languish for decades. Even if people with scores of accusers over decades, like Bill Cosby, do make it to trial, convictions are not sure things.

Even if every accusation met the burden required for prosecution, from getting through an evidentiary hearing to being within the statute of limitations, one does have to wonder if the justice system is the right place to try some of these cases. Not only because the American justice system sometimes seems as if it were built explicitly to be biased against female victims, but because the justice system is, to put it frankly, broken.

Just the other week an investigation by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune showed that black defendants receive longer sentences than white defendants for the same crime. We regularly hear reports of coerced confessions, abuse of power by police…

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