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the Ghomeshi trial – and how little we understand sexual assualt

March 26, 2016

As some of you know, I have written about Jian Ghomeshi going back now over the past few years.

So, as the uproar over the not-guilty verdict in his alleged sexual assault of three women was handed down on Thursday continues to sweep across the land, I want to highlight a few things that I witnessed from my particular vantage point.

(For those who don’t know, my vantage point comes from the fact that I have worked with homeless street people – particularly youth – for almost 25 years. And the one thing anyone will tell you who works in this field is that sexual assault makes up at least 70% of the common experience shared by street women. Either they first experienced the assaults in the homes they grew up in, or when they eventually reach the streets; by the time we encounter them sexual assault has happened to the majority of them.)

Canadians, as a culture, continue to stick their heads in the sand concerning this issue.

We are so fucking polite – as a culture – that we stifle ourselves from talking about this issue in any real way. Lest we offend someone. Lest we offend ourselves.

When it comes to understanding sexual assault in our culture, we don’t even know what we don’t know. Worse, we don’t know that we don’t know.

This was laid bare in the Ghomeshi trial.

Watching the Prosecution was like watching court scenes from good-ole’-boy southern-style movies like My Cousin Viny, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Inherit the Wind.

The Patriarchy at work – consciously, unconsciously, for better, for worse, till death do us part.

Prosecuting attorney Michael Callaghan was so frighteningly ignorant of the issues involved – was frankly fucking clueless about what was going on – he was so bad, I began to think that maybe he was a plant for the defense (as did many others – see the brilliant articles written by Jane Doe in Toronto’s Now Magazine – she successfully sued the Toronto Police Force for how they handled her sexual assault case back in the 1990’s).

The flip side of that clueless coin being that the male-dominated Toronto Police Force had no real interest – one way or another – about how this case turned out. Ghomeshi hired the best trial lawyer in the country (Marie Henein); the Toronto Star could only describe the prosecuting lawyer as “a nice guy”. This was a celebrity case bringing national and international attention to the very real issue of sexual assault, and the best the prosecution could deliver was “a nice guy”?

The Prosecution set his three witnesses up to be totally obliterated by the Defense lawyer – and did not object even once when his witnesses were being dragged through the mud for behavior that had nothing to do with the assault – he did not provide any expert witness account of how the large majority of sexual assault victims not only know who their perpetrator is (according to Statistics Canada: 93% of the time), but they almost always have further contact with their perpetrator – for a wide variety of reasons – be they economic, emotional, or out of pure survival necessity.

Any social worker will tell you that victims often lie, or conceal the fact that they have had on-going contact with their abuser. Guilt, embarrassment, shame, abuser power, keeps these facts buried in the shadows of such cases.

None of which – none – zero – none-of-which has anything to do with the actual assault itself. NONE!


But then I watched how the mainstream media – the 6 and 11 o’clock TV news to be exact – knew as little as the prosecuting lawyer when it came to understanding sexual assault.

Global News had a feature lawyer who said there was nothing else the prosecution could have done. That he had tried his best. He tried to make me understand that the judge had a superbly sound reasoning of the situation and there was no other decision he could make. Innocent. Of all charges.

The fact that the three witnesses got up and described how he assaulted each of them made no difference in the larger context of the case.

The defense merely said that because all three victims had contacted Ghomeshi after their assaults, and that they did not tell the police this fact (nor does it seem, did the police look very hard for these facts) – this means that the women were little more than attention seekers who, once they discovered that Ghomeshi wanted to have nothing else to do with them, cried assault. (Nor does it reveal any clue as to the behavior of someone who is a serial assaulter. Serial assaulters have no interest in the victim after the assault. Often they are immediately looking for their next victim. Five minutes of watching Criminal Minds will tell you this.)

At worst, it was the women’s own fault. At best, it never happened. And everyone believed her.

No one looked any deeper into the matter.


Some of my saddest experiences as a councilor are often when I try to work with a young person – usually women (but not always) – who are in an abusive relationship, yet keep going back. And I am always surprised at the myriad ways in which they talk themselves into going back. -Deep down he loves me. – He would never kill me. -He is under a lot of stress. -He was abused as a child. -He gets excited, and then we have great sex. -I want him to be happy. -He pays the bills. -He has an apartment. -He protects me.

I could fill the rest of the blog with the reasons women discover to remain in an abusive relationship and the ways they discover to keep the abuse a secret.

How we raise our girls to see themselves in a patriarch society has deep and profound repercussions on their sense of self, their self-esteem, their sense of place in the world, how and when they give permission. (The same goes for how we raise our boys in a patriarchical society and the reasons they devise to perpetuate such crimes.)

All the defense lawyer had to do was bring in – as an expert witness – someone like the Executive Director of Toronto’s Rape Crisis Centre to illustrate what we actually know at ground zero about sexual assaults – how the typical victim acts in such cases – that the courts always blame women for their assaults, and that because of this reality, only 2 out of every 100 sexual assaults actually ever go to trial – (that there were other women related to this case who refused to testify in court for fear of being publicly shamed) – and Ghomeshi’s defense of victim-blaming would have crumbled into dust.

That none of this happened – or only happened in some newspapers – so painfully made apparent that we are a long way away from that world of understanding about how sexual assaults are perpetuated and seldom prosecuted in our society.

Women are gold-diggers.

It is not assault if the women come back for more.

If women weren’t so promiscuous, none of this would happen to them.

A generation ago men still argued in court that a man cannot be charged with rape, if it is against his wife. Lots of men still argue that position today.

No, it is apparent that the deck is still so stacked against the victim of sexual assaults that the outcomes of such cases are often a foregone conclusion long before they ever go to trial.

And now we will ask the profession that is still largely dominated by men – the legal/policing system – please, sirs, will you update these out-dated laws? Please sirs. It is 2016 afterall.

Knowing full well that these mighty men of learning will grumble and pontificate and masticate on why we must move slowly in this serious endeavor – for we don’t want men falsely accused all willy-nilly –

all the while 3 women a minute will continue to be sexually assaulted in this country.

That is 30 women in the 10 minutes it took you to read this blog.

And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put them back together again…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2016 1:14 pm

    You people are purely delusional. If you had your way, a woman could accuse a man of rape without any evidence whatsoever; indeed, with evidence (as in this case) that all was consensual and greatly desired.

    All of these women should be jailed for perjury, at the very least.

  2. March 28, 2016 8:46 pm

    This is a particularly excellent blog. You raised an issue I have not seen mentioned anywhere in all the columns, editorials, op ed pieces that I have read – that is – the total inadequacy of the prosecutor’s input. Or rather the total absence of a prosecutor.

  3. Claudia permalink
    March 29, 2016 10:58 pm

    Yup, you said it all very well. I can’t help but wonder how Ghomeshi’s lawyer goes to sleep at night. Sometimes when i looked at her and Ghomeshi together I wondered whether they were doing it together? Maybe she is into rough sex too? Who knows.Truth has funny ways of coming out. Even though in the eyes of the courts, Ghomeshi might have won an “innocent” he knows what he did, he knows how he “snaps” and the women know what happened. That can never be undone and in the book of life/time/karma… he will always be acccountable. I am just glad he got caught and his sleezy face no longer has to be on public radio!

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