This is to try and maybe spark some debate, and as always I am interested in some views here.
There seem to be an awful lot of accusations of historical sexual abuse or harassment flying around, and I noticed today that George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) has had some sort of allegation of something from 40 years ago. I am not even going to bother looking it up.
So it struck me that there are clearly issues here, not only with actual cases of sexual abuse going unreported for so long, but also the cases where people are simply "jumping on the bandwagon" hoping for some settlement. Even where something did happen, I really find it unbelievable that either party could accurately remember what happened 40 years ago - the way memory works it will have changed your memory of what happened quite a lot over time, if you remember at all. The same goes for any witnesses.
So how on earth can this be fixed? Well, I suggest a simple time limit - perhaps 10 years (or 10 years after the victim becomes an adult if that is longer). Even 10 years seems a long time for clear memories in what is almost always one person's word against another.
But don't shoot me down just yet - I am not trying to be insensitive. I am not in any way saying this as a way for perpetrators to get away with sexual assault, in fact quite the opposite.
Clearly, and this is where I am doing my armchair psychology, the victims in such cases feel they cannot come forward. As time goes on, there is nothing to change that view - no impetus to make them come forward, except perhaps when something is in the news, even relating to the same perpetrator. Without that impetus the victim has to live with this memory forever and the constant "should I say something?" feeling and dread.
If, however, there is a time limit, there is am impetus. There is a deadline, and that could encourage people to finally come forward, even if right on the time limit. If they choose not to, then they at least no longer have the "should I say something?" feeling as they chose not to in the time they had, so it is "settled", mentally. Maybe they can move on?
But it could mean that perpetrators get dealt with sooner as well. Instead of justice coming to them 40 years later it is only 10. Indeed, maybe it should be shorter like 5 years?
This would have the other side effect of stopping these crazy made up claims from decades ago, and also make it slightly easier for the poor investigators that are trying to unravel such cases. 10 years is a long time for memories to be clear, but when you start talking 40 years, it must be impossible for anyone to prove anything. One really long time scales you even run the risk that possible witnesses are now dead! These accusations then go unresolved and can be extremely damaging for the accused who equally cannot prove they are innocent. You end up with trial by media in effect.
Is that a crazy idea?