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Target of a Witch Hunt

CD Knowles 10 months ago

Dear Knowles,

I’m the wife of a person who was cited (and fired) for sexual misconduct. Since my husband is a somewhat well-known public figure, I will not use his actual name and will change the circumstances (though not the facts surrounding them) to protect his identity and my own. Let’s say my husband, whom I’ll call James, was a tenured professor at a large, well-endowed university. He’d been there fifteen years, beloved by students, a frequent advisor to presidents Bush and Obama, a best selling author. Never in his whole career was there a problem until last month when a person he didn’t even know, probably someone with a gripe, came forward and accused him of inappropriate behavior. Her claim? That James had given her unwanted shoulder rubs and made inappropriate remarks about her and other females in the department. Also that he hugged her so hard that she could feel an erection -- a hug that she admitted was given in public with quite a number of people present to observe. My husband’s contract was terminated summarily and without a real explanation on January 28, 2018. The name of the person (or persons) cited in the complaint were withheld from him. In other words, he was given no opportunity to defend himself against unknown accusers. I find this appalling -- tantamount to the dangerous phenomenon of witch hunt behavior that is currently taking place in this country.  Isn’t it interesting, for instance, that the man at the top -- Donald Trump -- can openly commit sexual transgressions without being fired for his misconduct, while people such as my husband are being ruined for the minor offense of hugging someone or rubbing their shoulders? James and I have been married for twenty-two years and I know him to be a wise and wonderful family man, a loyal friend and person of high scruples. To add insult to injury, the board that fired James has refused to disclose further information “out of respect” for the person affected by my husband’s so-called behavior. What!? How about James who’s certainly innocent and whose reputation has been ruined to the point where he will never get a job again. Please let me know what to do, Knowles, in order to help my husband to obtain justice.

I wish you the best and thank you in advance.

Target-of-a-Witch-Hunt-in-Austin, TX

witchDear Target,

I am so sorry to hear your story. The #MeToo movement has been a wonderful vindication for women who have suffered sexual predation at the hands of bosses and colleagues, but because there is such a lack of clarity on the subject, it is also a movement that stands to be robustly abused. Rape is a crime. Looking at someone seductively or making a suggestive remark could, if continued, be construed as harassment, but neither of these behaviors constitute criminal behavior. It is disturbing that your husband should have been summarily fired without a proper explanation or the opportunity to defend himself. If it is true that he is innocent, he should not hesitate to hire a lawyer and take his former employer to court. Suppose his accuser is claiming, as you say, that he hugged her too hard, or gave her a shoulder rub without asking. First, this is her word against his. Second, why fire someone and ruin their life over such a frankly murky offense? This is a situation that requires conversation between both parties, counseling, strategizing, and debate. It does not require harsh punishment. In my view, what we are currently seeing with #MeToo is a messy, dangerous, unregulated movement that, without proper guidelines, could easily lead to mass hysteria, witch hunt behavior and a kafkaesque world where it’s just fine to point fingers and make claims (often based on minor grievances) that don’t, on further examination, hold water. By then, however, it may be too late. Okay, now I’ve vented enough. Your husband’s situation is one that’s taking place across the land, sometimes with reason, sometimes not. In time, hopefully, balance will prevail.

All the best,

CD Knowles


I’m sure you haven’t forgotten about me, Knowles. Just to let you know, I did go out with the woman I mentioned a few weeks ago, the one I saw in the street and who was very happy to meet me. She agreed to get in my van and I wish I could tell you what happened next. Suffice it to say I had a fabulous time, and she did too, at least in the beginning. If you were a different kind of person, I’d tell you the whole story, but you‘re not… You’ll just have to picture those murder novels you used to write anonymously.

Well, Honed-to-Kill, so glad to hear you’re a fan of my fiction. That truly warms my heart. You know what would warm it even more? If you stopped your bad habits and began to do the things people would really admire you for, like acts of heroism rather than mania and destruction. In the meanwhile, stay in touch and let me know how I can help you with your sorry secrets.

Best, CD Knowles



Dear Concerned,

Munchausen Syndrome is a very serious condition and I hope you will follow Knowles’ advice and set up an intervention ASAP. I had a friend who kept scheduling surgeries for a mysterious ailment and it was years before the docs found out she was regularly ingesting small amounts of poison so that she would appear to be “sick.” Luckily she didn’t die from the disorder. A year of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with an experienced practitioner helped set her straight.

Much luck to you.  

Brenda S., Gainesville, FL


Dear Concerned,

I am very grateful that you brought up your friend’s situation. I’ve known people with this kind of problem but never understood that it was serious or what it was. I had one friend who was always going to the hospital and I used to worry about her but figured the docs knew what they were doing. When she moved to another state, I was kind of relieved. Now I feel guilty that I didn’t help her more.

Thanks again.

Derick M., Waco, TX


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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.