#BelieveTheWoman took another body blow recently (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/17/18). As many recall, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, D – MN, was accused back in August by his former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, of physical and emotional abuse against her. He denies her allegations, but they spurred the Star Tribune and Alpha Media to seek records from his divorce from his wife Kim in 2012. Presumably, both media outlets sought information to the effect that Ellison is an abuser.
Both Ellison and his ex-wife opposed unsealing the divorce file (why was it sealed in the first place?) citing privacy concerns. But a judge ordered its contents made public. What they revealed is that it wasn’t Ellison, but his ex who was the abuser.
In a February 2015 affidavit opposing motions from Kim Ellison for him to pay more in spousal maintenance, Keith Ellison reported that his ex-wife "has hit me too many times to mention." He said he reported the abuse during a 2009 counseling session during which Kim Ellison told a therapist that she hit him and not their children "because he can take it," according to the affidavit. Ellison said in the affidavit that he had photographs of injuries she inflicted, and said she once wielded a knife during an altercation at his Washington, D.C., apartment. He said staff members noticed markings left by the alleged abuse.Kim Ellison attributes her abuse of her former husband to depression occasioned by a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
"My divorce file contains details of the most difficult time in my life, when I was struggling with my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis," Kim Ellison said. "I was scared, confused, worried, angry, and became depressed.Of course the fact that Ellison didn’t abuse his wife doesn’t mean he didn’t abuse his girlfriend or another woman, Amy Alexander, who accused him of assault in 2005. But it also fails to establish Ellison as a serial abuser, despite the claims of two separate women. In short, their allegations against him are, once again, uncorroborated by evidence and denied by the accused.
Ellison’s opponent for the office of state Attorney General, Doug Wardlow, has been attempting to capitalize on Monahan’s accusations, apparently hoping voters will believe them in the absence of corroborating evidence. My guess is that the voters are smarter than that, particularly after the latest revelations. I hope I’m right.
For decades, mere allegations of domestic abuse have proven sufficient to diminish the rights of accused men (usually) in divorce and child custody proceedings. The thinnest accusations are often enough, a fact routinely acknowledged by divorce lawyers. Due process of law, basic fairness and good sense all require that we not accept naked allegations at face value. To permit those, with no corroboration and in the face of the accused’s denials, to separate a parent from a child, to deny a qualified candidate a public office (including a seat on the Supreme Court) would be an outrage against children’s welfare, basic decency and good government.
So, despite the fact that Keith and Kim Ellison objected (for perfectly sound personal reasons) to their divorce file being made public, I’m glad it was. Doing so constituted a process of seeking evidence to either corroborate or rebut otherwise bare allegations. As such, it’s something that needed to be done. Keith Ellison is a public figure and, like it or not, accusations against him become public matters. So anything that tends to support or contradict them should come to light.
That process of finding and reporting pertinent facts is the very antithesis of #BelieveTheWoman that holds that only the allegations of a woman against a man carry weight. I don’t know if Keith Ellison has been a good congressman or if he’d make a good state Attorney General. What I do know is that he, like everyone else, must be free of guilt by aspersion. No civilized society can accept mere allegations as sufficient to destroy a person’s reputation or diminish their liberty. However uncomfortable the process has been for the Keith and Kim Ellison, it served to once again assert that most basic of all notions.
Thanks to Joy for the heads up.