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...

Please click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.


jrkrideau said...

It may well be that Ghomeshi should have been found not guilty and may well have been innocent. However, it appears that the Crown was grossly incompetent. Why did the Crown not know about emails etc. that the defence seems to have had no problem finding?

The judge has not the slightest knowledge about how memory works and let the defence walk all over testimony with inconsistencies. He should be thoroughly ashamed of his attack on the complainants.

Memories are not set in stone and to expect totally consistent recall of a traumatic incident of ten years ago is a the best a polite legal fiction or more accurately bullshit. In fact, a perfect recall of those events would, to me, have been cause to suspect the stories. Come to think of it, the Dziekanski/RCMP perjury trial is a case in point with a much shorter time period.

At the very least, the Crown should have had an expert witness or two to testify to the ability of a person to accurately recall anything from 10 years ago let alone accurately recall behaviour arising from an alleged traumatic assault.

It also seemed to me that we had more a trial of the complainants than of the defendant. Our adversarial trial process is rather broken in many respects and sexual assault cases are extreme examples of this.

Anonymous said...

"If more women can be encouraged to come forward, and the case is better prepared, it can have a different outcome." Absolutely Simon, if the case was prepared better and the evidence of the victims vetted better, maybe we would have a different outcome!!!!!! I do not think there was enough evidence collecting and vetted from these victims by both the police and the Crown!!!! As a woman, and been in an abusive relationship, your mind simply blocks out the abuse, leaving it very difficult to articulate what really happened. It has been some years now and still I can be driving and suddenly I remember something from that past and my anxiety sets in. Then I have the added long journey to find my inner strength to carry on. Unfortunately the Judge can only go on the evidence presented and follow the rules of the law. Cannot blame the Judge, but in my opinion this was never taken seriously enough by both the Crown and the police to make anything stick in this case. This was confirmed in the Crown's actions in the Courtroom proceedings. I know I shall bear the burden of these anxieties for the rest of my life. The results of sex assault, domestic assault and rape leaves a very hard road to travel for the rest of the victim's lives. This perpetrator knows what he did, Hopefully Karma will make thing right for these victims since we cannot seek justice from our Justice Department nor the police.

rumleyfips said...

Sorry Simon. One of the complainants came forward with a new, accurate statement to avoid lying under oath. There was no memory lapse here . The original evidence was false and the plaintif knew it.

Anonymous said...

Those women were guilty in the eyes of the cops and the crown from the moment they developed breasts.
Anybody ever check on the frequency of sexual/spousal abuse in cops' or attorneys' abodes? The figures might astound even the most jaded of us....hence the cavalier attitude of the whole fucking investigation.

Anonymous said...

Ghomeshi case seems to me as a public lynching. It's not up to you or I to judge Ghomeshi based on social media. I think that the three women are lucky they were not charged with perjury. Let's not forget, there was a possible 25 year sentence for choking. Due process!

I have enormous sympathy for women who have experienced sexual assault. From this trial, I am hoping that others can learn what is vital in making statements to the police, and the social support they need as the legal system proceeds through its necessary channels. I am mostly sad that the conduct of these women may have ended up impeding others from reporting.

Our justice system is a sacred part of our amazing Canadian system. Let's not kick it because three women decided to play chicken with it (to loosely paraphrase the judge).

Sorry Simon, I know my views may not be the popular ones of the day, but I feel very strongly that our system is probably the best in the world. We can't knock it because it doesn't always agree with us, but we can learn to use it to better advantage while respecting its fundamental principles. Lying under oath cannot be condoned under any cirumstances. This is a slippery slope.

Let's try unstead to help those victims use our system to their rightful advantage.


rumleyfips said...

Reading elsewhere, I see support for different rules of evidence for sexual assault cases; complainants to be automatically believed and no challenges allowed. Isn't this what happened here ? Both the cops and the crown believed and failed to investigate. How'd that turn out.

e.a.f. said...

The law is the law. its innocent until proven guilty and guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt, as defined by law. If we start to make exceptions, then where does it end.

As a long time feminist, before the current crop were ever born or thought of, I do not like J.G. or his actions as alleged. If we were talking "on the balance of probablilities" which is the standard for civil cases, he might not have been acquitted. People have been found not guilty in criminal cases and lost in civil cases.

This is now being turned into a media circus and will do those involved little good in the long run. Rape and sexual assault cases are complex. Its a lot of they said/they said. Then there is the law. The judge was clear. Clients, lawyers, etc take note for the future.

people might want to lay off vilifying the judge. He did his job. Public pressure ought not to the deciding factor in a trial decision.

The Mound of Sound said...

Simon, you seem to think that the justice system exists or should exist to right societal wrongs. That's a skewed notion. There is a responsibility for this function and it's political. The Criminal Code is a statute. It embodies the criminal law as prescribed by Parliament. The Court's sole function is to interpret and apply that law. The judiciary was never intended to be an unelected legislature and we would regret it should it become that.

John said...

The individual who stated the women were lucky they were not charged with perjury is incorrect in my opinion. There was a good reason Ghomeshi didn't take the stand in his own defence. A charge of perjury would mean that the defendant made it all up and there was no factual base whatsoever. There would be a trial and the evidence that came out would not be for a criminal trial and beyond a reasonable doubt. It case would be whether the plaintiffs made up their statements without any reasonable basis whatsoever. It would be interesting in that the outcome would probably be no to perjury and we would have to go through all the evidence, including new evidence such as another woman coming forward. I think the case was poorly prepared by the crown and the delay in processing the case was damaging as the evidence was all self reporting evidence and 10 years old.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon 8:20, for your description of the unending after-effects of abuse. One's mind does block out not only the abuse but also many memories of one's own subsequent actions . As an abuse survivor, I find that every word of the above comment is true for so many of us; yet the varied and severe impacts on the victims are not taken into account nearly enough - usually hardly at all - in considering their courtroom testimony. Expectations laid on survivors are, as many online have already said, totally unrealistic in view of violence's unpredictable effects on memory and behaviour.

We can't change the system without long and arduous work, so a practical approach is to focus on what we can do. I think the many "mistakes", to put it mildly, made by the complainants would likely force almost any judge to render a similar decision. For me, the decision - emotionally hard to read but extremely valuable - serves as a list of what not to do when dealing with the "justice" system. No way will this trial and its outcome encourage more survivors to come forward, but it might make those who do more aware of what is and is not in their best interests to do following any violence.

Simon said...

hi jrkrideau...I don't know that the judge had any choice but to render the verdict he did. But there was something about the process that turned my stomach. Does anybody doubt that Ghomeshi didn't hit those women? And why didn't the ten other women who also complained about being assaulted dare to file charges? Something is not right about the way sexual assault is handled in this country, and we need to examine ways we can make it more effective...

Simon said...

hi anon...thank you for sharing your comment, I am sorry of hear that you are a survivor of domestic abuse, but I am impressed by your strength. You know I have received an incredible amount of hateful comments and e-mails for simply standing up for the rights of women. So clearly some men still don't get it. But as I said in my post I'm hoping that the trial will empower other victims to come forward, and that we can all work to end the horrible scourge of violence against women...

Simon said...

hi Rumleyfips...I'm aware that the complainants did not help their own cause. But what we are talking about is the aftermath to an assault, so I don't think they should have been humiliated in such a manner. The police and the crown obviously presented the court with a flawed case and set it up to fail. And what I was trying to write about in that post was the bigger picture. There can be no doubt that Jian Ghomeishi is a serial abuser and from what those who worked with him at the CBC have said a nasty arrogant bully. So the fact that this case collapsed should be nothing to celebrate...

Simon said...

hi anon...I just think that the police and the crown didn't care enough to do a proper job, and presented a flawed case to the judge. And there they meant to or not, they did a lot of damage to the cause of fighting sexual violence. We need to look at new and better ways of fighting this problem, and educate those who need educating, to make sure something like that doesn't happen again...

Simon said...

hi TS...there is absolutely no doubt that Jian Ghomeshi is a serial abuser of women. That reputation has hung over his head from his university days. There is also no doubt that he is the worst kind of bully. There are numerous accounts from those he mistreated at the CBC. So while this case may have been tragically flawed, I don't think that the women invented the fact that he hit them. Which is after all the most important thing. The legal system may have worked in this case considering how flawed the case was, But what I am arguing is that we need to look at the bigger picture to understand among other things why thirteen women apparently complained about being hit, but only three dared to file charges. And my main point is that when so many women don't dare lay charges we have to come up with better ways to tackle the problem. For it is a shameful problem...

Anonymous said...

We're getting ever closer to the heart of the matter, and the linked post goes as far as I've seen.

It takes time for memories to surface and then for rationality to return and put them into readable prose. Even before that, it takes time to gather courage to reopen the wounds. These processes have no regard for our fast-paced society's demands that every issue be wrapped up with a bow on it within a couple of days.

Some abuse survivors know we will remain in danger our whole lives or at least until we've heard "our" predator is dead. That is one very good reason for posting anonymously.

Those who really want to better understand the women now being vilified will follow and read the links here: