Tell the Truth

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to be scrupulous about telling the truth. Falsehood is the foundation of defamation, so sticking to the truth greatly reduces your legal exposure. It’s also the right thing to do.

Now might be a good time to review the legal definition of falsehood.

Understate, don’t exaggerate

It is human nature to want to spin the facts and dial up your language to make your case more compelling. Resist the temptation: it is safer and more ethical to understate your case than to exaggerate it.

Don’t imply the existence of non-existent facts

If you summarize evidence or offer an opinion based on it, make certain the evidence supports your claim. Don’t say “based on witness accounts, we believe Morgan injured Blair” unless you’ve heard witness accounts that unambiguously support that conclusion.

Be careful of words with specific legal meanings

Everyone has the right to interpret their experiences however they choose: if someone experienced a consent violation as rape, you should respect that.

But when making a formal statement about an incident, remember that words like “rape” have specific legal meanings. It is safer to only use those words in their formal legal sense.

Don’t quote defamatory sources

A core principle of consent work is to believe people who have been harmed and amplify their voices. Legally, however, quoting a defamatory statement is defamatory. Unless you’re absolutely certain about what happened, it may be prudent to avoid repeating specific allegations and focus instead on the big picture.

If you aren’t certain of the truth of an allegation, it is safer to link to it than to quote it directly.

Beware of exaggerating adjectives

Adjectives are a powerful tool for making language more expressive and compelling. But be careful not to overstate your case by using overly strong adjectives unless the facts support them:

  • convincing evidence
  • heinous misconduct
  • severe infraction

Adjectives should make your writing clearer, not make it more punchy but less accurate.


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