Just because the verdict was “not-guilty” doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.Yesterday, the Jian Ghomeshi trial ended with a not-guilty verdict.
Jian Ghomeshi a Canadian musician, writer and former CBC radio broadcaster, was acquitted of all charges of sexual assault and choking. In closing statement, Ontario court of Justice Judge William Horkins stated the testimony and memories of the complainants were not trustworthy and appeared to be dishonest. Judge William Horkin’s argues that with the number of messages exchanged between the complainants, it appeared to be a plot to ruin Jian Ghomeshi. Further, Judge William Horkin’s topped his decision by stating ‘the court recognizes it needs to guard against stereotypes about how a woman should act after an assault’… ‘However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.’
Much of the public was outraged with the ruling, claiming that Judge William Horkins, did not in fact put Jian Ghomeshi on trial but put the women complainants on trial. Others leaned towards Jian Ghomeshi’s class and celebrity status and they believe that allowed him to ‘get-away’ with these crimes and related Ghomeshi to Bill Cosby. These all lead to the need for a discussion around ‘rape culture’ and a better understanding of the victims psyche. The simple fact is not all victims will behave in the same manner, nor in a manner we may want them too. People will react differently to abuse based upon their environment, childhood upbringing, resiliency levels, culture, class and religion and so on. Alternatively, those who support Judge Horkin’s decision argued “if the complainants were truly victims they would not have carried on relations with Ghomeshi after the fact.” However, what many people do not realize is that with the stigma and shame surrounding sexual violence, many victims may attempt to remove that shame they are feeling by reaching out to the abuser. Some victims attempt to reconcile with their abuser in order to disassociate themselves from the abuse they endured.
A combination of rape culture and the crown’s inability to meet the burden of proof failed society yesterday. Perhaps Judge Horkin’s should have kept his personal opinions to himself and left his closing statement to the rule of law. There is debate whether the prosecution was unable to meet the burden of proof, and the fact is victim testimony may not always be as ‘reliable’ as we want because when there is abuse involved things do not appear as clear cut. Jian Ghomeshi does not deny being violent with these women. He simply argues it was consensual – they signed up for it and therefore he is not guilty. Author Anne Kingston perfectly sums up the case when she wrote “Jian Ghomeshi’s behaviour was an open secret, going back to his university days. Not that anyone took action. In fact, the CBC made him a star.” Jian Ghomeshi has had complaints against him by women for years, yet due to his charisma and looks these were always over looked. A woman named Karen Eady told Maclean’s author Kingston, she attended York University at the same time of Ghomeshi, and recalls being in a residence advisers meeting where women had reported to have had a ‘bad date’ with Ghomeshi. These bad dates alleged abuse ranging from hitting to choking. The violence involved in these bad dates are also similar to the present case and to the many women who also made complaints while working with Ghomeshi at CBC. Over the years, the women that have made formal complaints against Ghomeshi, have all received similar responses such as “just work around him” or “we know he can be hard to be around, but just ignore him” and some complaints were just flat out ignored.
What actually happened we will never truly know and only the parties involved know the truth. However, given the sheer number of women that have come forward over the years, it is very clear that as a society we continue to perpetuate rape culture and victim blaming.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that we start focusing on instilling confidence in our children, both boys and girls. This will allow for girls to grow up into confident women and have the ability to trust herself enough to remove herself from harmful situations and most importantly to not be ashamed of herself. We need to provide our boys with confidence, so that they will never feel the need to take away from someone else to lift themselves up. We as a society also need to take more pertinent action when any person makes an allegation of abuse – we need to focus on the victim. Our current system stands to put victims of sexual violence on trial opposed to perpetrators. All victims should be made to feel like survivors and have the right to overcome abuse with dignity and without the attachment of shame.
“Guilt is one side of a nasty triangle; the other two are shame and stigma. This grim coalition combines to inculpate women themselves of the crimes committed against them.” – Germaine Greer