Friday, March 25, 2016
The Ghomeshi Verdict and the Road Ahead
The trial is over, Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking.
And for those of us who support women's rights, the end couldn't have been more depressing.
With the once swaggering bully going free, and the judge blasting the three female complainants.
Former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges in his sexual assault trial on Thursday, with the judge sharply criticizing the three complainants as “deceptive and manipulative” and advocates charging that the outcome proves the insufficiency of the justice system to address such matters.
And while many are claiming that the result proves that our justice system works, and that the presumption of innocence prevailed, as it should.
And from a strictly legal point of view they may be right.
The charges were filed too late, memories were clouded by time, the police and the Crown did a poor job of preparing the case. And the complainants didn't help their own cause by either forgetting or lying about the aftermath of those alleged assaults.
But as far as I'm concerned, this trial is just another example of how inadequate the justice system is when it comes to fighting the societal problem of violence against women.
The system still does not take into account that we still live in a sexist society where women are still not fully equal, and misogyny still runs wild.
It fails to take into account that many women are socialized into believing that it's their fault. Or that many battered women stay with those who beat them because of dependency or other complicated human factors.
Or that because of the stigma still attached to sexual assault, many women hesitate to report their attackers to the police.
Because when studies show that more than ninety percent of assaults against women go unreported, you know something is not working, and we've got a real problem.
And what worries me is that the Ghomeshi verdict might discourage some women from coming forward and telling their stories.
Sexual assault is widely unreported. However, even when it is reported, the chances of conviction at trial are low. These are disturbing facts about crime, society, and our judicial system.
When it should do the opposite.
For while the situation is depressing, it also important to remember what that verdict really means:
Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of the charges against him, but that does not mean that he is innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever. His acquittal does not mean that the assaults did not take place, or that his prosecution was unwarranted. It only means that the allegations against him cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
And the lessons that were learned:
If more women can be encouraged to come forward, and the case is better prepared, it can have a different outcome.
So we need to get serious about providing more support for women who turn to the justice system for help. We need to educate the police, and the crown prosecutors, to better understand what "because it's 2016" means.
And of course beyond that we need to crackdown on sexism, and crush misogyny wherever it rears its ugly head.
And teach men to respect women from the earliest possible age...
As that little guy was being educated by his Mum at a survivor's rights protest last night.
And as I was educated, thank goodness, by the women in my life.
And in the meantime, let's hope that this is true.
I am hopeful that this will encourage more survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and share their stories. Whether they do so in the context of a criminal proceeding or not, an enhanced awareness about the lived experiences of sex-abuse survivors will deepen societies understanding of these crimes and serve to destigmatize them in the future.
And that the passions aroused by that trial will encourage not discourage the struggle against the scourge of violence against women.
And bring us closer to the day of justice...
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