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reporting sexual abuse

Posted by Kirsten Evans on 23.March.2016

The Jian Ghomeshi trial is back on almost everyone’s radars. News of Ghomeshi’s leave from the CBC first broke in October of 2014, without much explanation. On October 26, 2014, the public heard of the reasons for Ghomeshi’s leave. In a lengthy, emotional Facebook post, Ghomeshi detailed that he had been let go from his position at the CBC as a result of accusations made by a former lover.

Ghomeshi mentioned that he had an interest in a variety of activities in the bedroom but that all sexual practices are “mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.” Soon after, allegations telling a different story began to emerge. Three women came forward to tell their stories of violent, not consensual, sexual experience. 

The very language used in these proceedings can work against victims. Words like “claim” or “allege” make it sound like the testimony of a victim is not enough. This language is saying that victims can make all the claims they want, but they had better have the proof to back it up. Their memory had better be crystal clear and never inconsistent. 

Imagine a traumatized individual having to recount in great detail all the events surrounding the incident of their trauma. The nature of the legal system requires defense attorneys to poke holes in the accuser’s narrative. Any inconsistencies are used to undermine the credibility of the victim. In a cruel twist of their effort to secure justice, they are the ones put on the stand, interrogated, and required to prove that what happened to them, actually happened. 

There is no correct way to respond to trauma, as each person is constrained to make sense of the event in whichever way brings some peace to their lives, whether it seems rational to observers or not. When trauma occurs, we are forced to try to make it fit into our life like a mismatched puzzle piece. This can look any number of ways, but none is less valid than another. 

How does the legal process for charges of rape and sexual assault potentially re-traumatize those who come forward? How does this contribute to how underreported these types of crimes are? How do we balance the need for due process and innocence until proven guilty for those accused with sensitivity and care for those coming forward? 

In the Ghomeshi case, a few statements that appear contradictory in addition to a record of some emails from the victims to Ghomeshi are enough, according to the defense, to disregard what these women are saying. It is frustrating to think of the many others who have observed this case and will now be afraid to come forward to speak of their trauma. We don’t yet know the outcome of this, but let us hope that justice will be served and that Canada will set a precedent where violence against anyone is not a matter of debate.





Topics: Consent