The Jian Ghomeshi story has gripped Canadians since it broke in late October, 2014. Ghomeshi was once known as one of the hottest radio hosts in Canada until he was fired by CBC shortly after he admitted on Facebook that he enjoyed “a variety of activities in the bedroom,” according to the Toronto Star, and emphasizing that he only participated in “sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.”
— National Post (@nationalpost) March 24, 2016
Ghomeshi has since faced charges of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to overcome resistance, according to the Toronto Star. The verdict is currently being outlined by Judge William Horkins who, according to the Twitter feed from Globe and Mail, openly questioned the veracity of the alleged victims.
Ghomeshi did not testify in his own defense, a move which may have likely saved him, as the judge’s decision now rests completely on the testimony of three complainants whose stories seem to shift back and forth. While defense attorney Marie Henein produced correspondence between two of the three Ghomeshi complainants that she argued proved that their evidence was contradictory, Crown prosecutor Mike Callaghan asked the judge to avoid looking at stereotypes as to how victims of sexual assault should or should not behave in court.
Horkins is also being eviscerated on social media for his comments during the reading of his verdict, as some describe it as “victim blaming 101.”
Sexual assault victims’ advocates say that because the allegations against Ghomeshi have largely played out through a media lens, there is a growing fear that the belief that allegations of sexual assault are largely made up will continue to be perpetuated. Anuradha Dugal, director of violence prevention at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said that the case has been been good as far as improving knowledge regarding sexual assault victims and why they are often loath to report the crime against them, but she also noted there was still a significant amount of victim blaming that occurs in cases such as the Ghomeshi trial.
“Maybe people are more aware of issues around sexual assault, consent and victim-blaming and that can only be a good thing for women,” Dugal said. “On the flip side, there are certainly indicators that we still are in a society that blames the victim and this particular case hasn’t really done anything to move us ahead.”
Kathleen Pye, an award winning researcher, counselling therapist, gender violence advocate, and social justice activist with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, also posted an infographic which outlines what generally happens when an alleged sexual assault victim comes forward to the police.
— Kathleen Pye (@KathleenCanada) March 24, 2016
Globe and Mail writer Sean Fine tweeted that feminists who are following the case will be sorely disappointed to see that, by and large, Ghomeshi’s alleged conduct has not really been acknowledged, and it is the alleged conduct of the complainants involved in the case that is being addressed.
The judge also noted that the third complainant in the case exchanged some 5,000 messages with Lucy DeCoutere of Trailer Park Boys, and that the two clearly considered themselves a “team” to bring down Ghomeshi.
It was the apparent “shifting” inconsistencies between the stories of all three complainants which, in the eyes of Horkins, did not meet the legal standard of reasonable doubt. As a result, Ghomeshi is walking away from this legal episode with an acquittal, while sexual assault victims are left looking at the case with even greater reluctance to come forward with their own stories. While their stories are undoubtedly different, to an extent, than the complainants in this case, the overall image of a sexual assault victim will continue to be tainted as a result of the Ghomeshi trial.
While the current case against Ghomeshi is coming to a close, the legal wranglings are not done for the former host of CBC’s Q. Ghomeshi is facing another criminal charge of sexual assault that allegedly occurred in the workplace.
[Photo by Malcolm Taylor/Getty Images]