“I don’t remember ever showing pornographic material to my clerks” – Alex Kozinksi
“I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that,” he said. “I don’t remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” – Roy Moore
Accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are increasing in newspaper headlines across the country. It is important to take the victims accusations seriously as well as resist the temptation of damning the accused before the truth is known. However, examining how the accused respond to allegations is informative to their attitude. The two quotes above from Roy Moore and Alex Kozinksi represent a disturbing trend of avoidance that should alarm us because of their unwillingness to commit to any version of the truth.
Without jumping to conclusions, one verbal defense looms as extremely suspect. Any denial that begins with, “I don’t remember…” phrasing should set off red flags to the reader or listener. Not only is it worrisome that somebody might not remember committing something as atrocious and abusive as sexual harassment and assault, but when your most compelling denial is qualified with “I don’t remember…” phraseology, you are at best unconvinced of your innocence and at worst positioning your denial to hold up in the event of future revelations of wrongdoing.
It is especially concerning when lawyers, judges, lawmakers, and politicians use this defense because they are the most language conscious of all professionals. Careful word choice is a skill for them, a hallmark of their profession, a peculiarly worded denial should never be cast aside as an innocent case of odd-phrasing. More likely, it is an acknowledgement that the accuser may possess proof or further embarrassing information that may transform an impassioned denial into an outright lie.
Though many accusations are based on incidents which took place in the distant past, the human mind attaches a nagging importance to matters of guilt. Look down the timeline of your own past, some of your clearest memories will likely be situations in which your actions or inaction resulted in a feeling of guilt. Memories warp and fade but guilt is enshrined in clarity. “I don’t remember…” may not be an admission of guilt, but it’s an avoidance of a denial. It reeks of a guilty party playing a game of Twister with the truth in order to avoid a blatant lie.
“I don’t remember…” is less than an apology and less than a denial, ultimately it is the most disrespectful response because the accused is not respecting the victim’s accusation nor his own innocence.
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