We need to get rid of common errors, lose the oversensationalization

Patrick Brown has, once again, dropped out of contention for leadership of the Ontario Conservative party.

Brown initially stepped down as party leader after allegations of sexual assault were leveled against him by two women in January, including one of his former staffers.

After deciding to run in the leadership race to replace himself, Brown ultimately left the race on Feb. 26.

This isn’t just a story about why it’s important that Brown stay out of the race this time, but about some of the strange and problematic things that came out of his decision to run. The resulting conversation shows that we as a society need do better in how people in a public forum discuss cases surrounding sexual assault.

We might as well start with the long, angry Facebook post. In mid-February, Brown lashed out at CTV News, who broke the story of his alleged sexual assault, after they amended their story to say that some elements of an accuser’s story had changed.

However, there is one nuanced, but extremely relevant piece of information that often doesn’t make it into these public discussions. We have to keep in mind that when it comes to specific details around an accuser’s story, like who drove them on a specific night, the brain may not remember the way we expect. According to public educator Julie Lalonde, the brain may not retain such details as expected after a traumatic event, but to assume that this means the whole story is a fabrication is wrong.

The way people define “disproving” allegations of sexual assault definitely needs to change, to reflect how the brain is really working in these situations.

And this is only one facet of the public discussion of Brown’s recent political departures. Despite the serious nature of the allegations against Brown, some commentators have attempted to spin the situation into some kind of positive message.

For example, a story published on the MacLean’s website on Feb. 28 is titled “There’s value in Patrick Brown’s delusional yet incredible self-confidence.” It goes on to assert that “there’s something inspiring about his oversized sense of self.”

Further, in a story published on CTV’s website, Kevin O’Leary said he was glad that Brown ran in the leadership race, and said he was “generating interest” in the political race.

Yes, the strange saga of Patrick Brown’s leadership hopes seems to be over. However, the resulting public discussion showed some flaws in how we approach public figures and their accusers. It’s a topic that, unfortunately, isn’t going away anytime soon, so removing common issues in public discussion, like misunderstandings about the neurological effects of trauma on memory, is a must.