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Jeff Simon: Where is the law's presence when we talk about #MeToo?

Jeff Simon

The most nauseating allegation, by far, against Matt Lauer that was reported during the storm that cost him his pivotal NBC "Today Show" job, came from a story I first read in the Daily Mail: that a 40-something married woman was summoned to his office, whereupon he pressed a secret button on his desk that automatically locked the door behind her. According to her, he then raped her, causing her to pass out and then be led off to the company nurse, when conscious, by a female assistant.

Let's total that up: locking the woman in his office against her will seems like kidnapping to me. Add rape to that -- and two witnesses to the aftermath. If there is any truth to the allegation -- and the statute of limitations hasn't expired -- why, in heaven's name, is this guy allowed to walk freely among fellow citizens? Why isn't he behind bars -- or, at the very least, in the public sights of cops and prosecutors determined to put him there?

I don't care if he is Matt Lauer. If that story is true (and witness-verified), we're talking about something felonious and truly disgusting -- a bewildering contempt for the opposite sex that should cancel all previous public charm and professional proficiency.

Not so, though. He is still free, albeit under a storm of suspicion and obloquy. Is that, in any way, because #MeToo stories have reached such avalanche numbers the most serious can't be properly investigated? Or that this one doesn't hold up because of technicalities? It would be nice to know.

(According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, only 11 out every 1,000 rapes in the U.S. are referred to prosecutors.)

One thing I do know is something I learned a couple weeks ago when Uma Thurman told her story about her abuse at the hands of film producer Harvey Weinstein to Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times.

In a Facebook post, I strongly questioned Dowd's handling of the story and her paper's editing of it. It seemed unnecessarily murky at the most important part of the story -- and therefore almost certainly difficult to pursue legally.

When I pointed that out on Facebook, I heard from a couple of women who almost immediately presumed I was being critical of the assault victim -- Uma Thurman -- and not the journalist who wrote the story in an unnecessarily sketchy way. If Thurman was still much too traumatized to tell the tale straight then it seems to me, it was Dowd's duty to tell us that.

It was, quite literally, the last thing that ever would have been on my mind to take Thurman to task for her inability to face trauma at the hands of Weinstein. My heart goes out to all his victims and all the victims of his brothers in depredation we are now hearing about in this typhoon of tales from a real culture of abuse many of us never imagined.

The instant reaction of those women -- one of whom said she was herself a three-time abuse victim -- was one of obvious empathy for Thurman. Their instant reaction was to circle the emotional wagons and protect her from yet another insensitive male who didn't realize his interest in forensically useful details was, in itself, abusive.

That, of course, got me thinking. Maybe I have indeed watched too much "Law and Order: SVU." That my complaint might have, in itself, been abusive is horrifying to me. I also think it's untrue. And I understood where it came from.

I'd offer the following: most ordinarily raised American males are still profoundly shocked by what we are discovering about the hidden life of our gender. We have been successfully taught since childhood: Never hit women, never abuse women. Ever, ever, ever.

That's why we are truly horrified and shocked by what seems to be a gargantuan amount of male predatory behavior. It's not that we weren't aware of the enormous complexity of human feelings and failings. Nor is it that we aren't interested in victims' feelings. Quite the contrary. We want as much understanding as we can get.

But that's a complicated subject, and quite apt to change from victim to victim.

Starkly simple, though, is the ordinary class of American males infuriated at the predators.

Where the devil is the law in all this?

We want the cops and the courts to start getting busy -- really, really busy -- and get these SOBs off the streets and behind bars, like that monstrous Michigan doctor whose abuses of teen gymnasts landed him behind bars for a century-plus. (A symbolic sentence, to be sure, for a guy his age, but let's hear it for symbolism.)

By all means, let's see predators get fired. Let's also see attorneys general go after predators' businesses for civil rights violations (as Eric Schneiderman just announced he's doing with the Weinstein Company).

What also needs to be understood is how many of us -- of both sexes -- want the most slavering monstrosities and predatory SOBs pursued by the law right into hostile jails from Bangor to Baja.

There is nothing trivial about feelings. We know that. Can we just assign the punishment of horrendous predators an equal priority, at the very least?

Just thought I'd ask.

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