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Point / Counterpoint: The Ghomeshi Verdict

Should we support Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal, or oppose it?

Jian Ghomeshi

OPPOSE IT:  The verdict proves rape culture is still alive and well

By Laura Scheck

According to Statistics Canada’s crime victimization survey from 2004, approximately 460,000 Canadian women were sexually assaulted in 2004. Out of all of those incidences, only about 3.3 percent were reported to the police and only 0.3 percent led to a conviction.

With a stat like this in mind, it’s not surprising that Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on Thursday of all counts of sexual assault. Since 2014, many people have been anxiously awaiting the results of Ghomeshi’s trial, with the hope that finally, a public demonstration supporting survivors would prevail.

As we have witnessed over the course of the trial, this did not come to fruition. Instead, Ghomeshi’s trial has been wrought with victim-blaming and the three complainants have been raked over the coals by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein.

One particularly awful aspect of the Ghomeshi trial was the implication that continuing contact with an abuser means giving consent in every situation. Ghomeshi’s defense counsel produced a pair of emails sent by the first complainant a year after she was allegedly assaulted by Ghomeshi. Though the email correspondences do, indeed, contradict her previous statements claiming she cut off contact with Ghomeshi, they do not invalidate her claims.

There are a multitude of reasons why a survivor may stay in contact with an abuser, that do not imply wanting to continue a relationship, including to confront them about their abuse. Manipulative abusers can make a person feel insecure and as though this kind of violence, being attached to sex, is somehow intimacy. In the eyes of the court, however, this inconsistency in the story added to invalidating her testimony entirely.

The legal system in Canada is ill-equipped to deal with sexual assault cases. The verdict is skewed in favour of the defendant, who is not required to testify, and what can be considered ‘evidence’ is incredibly limited. Often there is little to no proof to support a survivor’s story beyond their testimony, as it can take years to come forward. Even if done quickly, however, there is often no tangible evidence to demonstrate a person was sexually assaulted.

This needs to change. With a miniscule number of sexual assaults continually reported, something is clearly wrong. We need to properly educate people on the topic of consent, as approximately 67 percent of Canadians cannot identify the legal definition of ‘consent,’ according to a study by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. We must also continue working towards fostering a culture that believes survivors; this doesn’t mean never questioning complainants, but rather listening to their stories instead of dismissing them or claiming they were somehow ‘asking for it.’

I want to remind people that sexual assault is not a just a ‘women’s issue,’ and virtually nobody makes false claims to get attention. All people can be subject to sexual violence, and all deserve to be treated with dignity. All people deserve to be believed.

SUPPORT IT: The verdict respects the rules of our justice system

By Tatum Miller

Every person has the right, according to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” If we unequivocally believe survivors, we risk violating the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence.

In response to the Ghomeshi ruling, numerous groups have rose up in protest. One such Facebook event, “Believe Survivors: Rally & March in Protest of the Ghomeshi Verdict,” hosted by Looking Out Ottawa, states: “we cannot allow the courts to determine the validity of our experiences.”

This statement is deeply troubling. In his ruling, Judge Horkins asserted that we must avoid the “dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.” The keyword here is always. I agree that, most of the time, complainants are truthful. However, this simply cannot be the case for all. Some people will lie, or bend the truth to suit their needs. This is human nature in all court cases, sexual assault included.

It is a wonderful idea to immediately believe survivors. It would make it much easier for survivors to press charges. However, a testimony does not imply truth, and it should not be considered hard evidence. We must trust our judicial system to arrive at the truth following a fair trial, after which justice shall be served.

This is not a defense of Ghomeshi. This is not a defense of the survivors in this case. This is a defense of our justice system.

It is apparent that Ghomeshi’s alleged acts were misogynistic and wrong. Judge Horkins’ ruling did not state that Ghomeshi’s acts clearly never happened. The simple fact was that Ghomeshi’s criminal guilt could not be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” because of a lack of evidence, and issues of credibility from the complainants, whose testimonies were the sole basis of the case.

Sexual assault is an issue that is difficult to deal with, due to the personal nature of the acts involved. Occasionally, there is more to the story than simply the offense itself. This holds true for both sides; the accused and the accusers.

Do not listen to the politicians, pandering for votes with their tweets of #IBelieveSurvivors. Recently, Tom Mulcair tweeted just this. As a trained lawyer, he should know better than to propagate an idea that violates our legal principles.

Perhaps the way our society handles sexual assault cases should be reviewed. It is a topic of sensitive nature, that puts much stress on the survivors. But the solution is not to sidestep our legal system in favour of one based on testimony as hard evidence.

We must stand with our survivors while they overcome the trauma of their experiences. However, we must not immediately accept their testimonies as unquestionable truth. This would fundamentally violate the core of our legal system, and the presumption of innocence.

  • Tony

    The ‘Sexual Assault Accusers Lobby’ ‘ disingenuously misinforms us that sexual assault reporting (3.3%) and conviction (0.3%) rates are very low based on the false yardstick that “460,000 Canadian women were sexually assaulted in 2004”.

    This is parroting the misleading YMCA chart (“there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada annually. Out of every 1000 sexual assaults: 33 are reported to police; 29 are recorded as a crime; 12 have charges laid; 6 are prosecuted; 3 lead to conviction; 997 assailants walk free.”).

    However, this is a Big Lie: there is no proof or actual claims that 460,000 sexual assaults actually occurred in any year (not even 46,000 and maybe not even 4,600).

    In reality, “460,000” was really an ESTIMATE of the number of sexual assaults in the outdated year 2004 (it was from a book chapter by Holly Johnson who stated “an ESTIMATED 460,000 Canadian women were victims of sexual assault in 2004 and just 8 percent reported the crime to the police”)!

    The source of Johnson’s estimate was a survey from 2004 of 13,166 women and 10,600 men in which there were only 330 to 372 responses of sexual assaults (Statistics Canada’s 2004 crime victimization survey: “Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault”).

    These 330 survey responses were magically inflated — through statistical extrapolation — into the false perception that 460,000 male assailants sexually assaulted women every year! The survey results (330 sexual assaults claimed) were multiplied by a weight to represent 13,163,777 women and 12,736,867 men aged 15 years and older in the population.

    These 330 survey responses also included false claims of sexual assault and sexual assaults by women on other women.

    Furthermore, only 22% of the 330 responses were for serious “forced into sexual activity” offences and 78% were for relatively minor “unwanted sexual touching” offences.
    – Question to identify ‘forced into sexual activity’: “Has anyone forced you or attempted to force you into any unwanted sexual activity, by threatening you, holding you down or hurting you in some way?” 72 responses (22% of 330)
    – Question to identify ‘unwanted sexual touching’: “Has anyone ever touched you against your will in any sexual way? By this I mean anything from unwanted touching or grabbing, to kissing or fondling.” 258 responses (78% of 330)

    Thus, 78% of sexual assaults claimed are for things like kissing and touching that the respondent did not want. By this wide definition, most men have also been sexually assaulted by women who had kissed the men, punched men’s arms; grabbed men’s butts, testicles, nipples; fingered their men’s orifices; and/or squeezed men’s heads with their thighs — without their consent. And men are even less likely to report being sexually assaulted than women! (Read American Psychological Association “Coerced Sex Not Uncommon for Young Men, Teenage Boys, Study Finds” and Time Magazine “The CDC’s Rape Numbers Are Misleading” and DA Hines “Predictors of sexual coercion against women and men: a multilevel, multinational study of university students”)

    What’s omitted about the survey is this: 1,398 of the survey’s 23,766 male and female respondents claimed to have been sexually assaulted in their entire lifetime (including false claims, women on men assaults and same sex assaults). Even if most respondents were women, this works out to only about 10% of all females surveyed.

    Survey aside, what’s the reality based on hard facts and truths? The reality is that the police almost always lay a charge when a woman complains of sexual assault and the conviction rate for sexual assault cases is relatively high. Canada’s conviction rate for sexual assaults (45%) is much higher than the more serious crime of attempted murder (20%), similar to criminal harassment (46%), similar to ordinary assault (47%) and slightly lower than murder (53%). Only 9% of all accused persons charged with sex assault are acquitted after trial. Read “The numbers contradict Ghomeshi case rhetoric”.

    Ghomeshi was lucky to be acquitted – he was acquitted because all complainants were discredited as dishonest and unreliable witnesses (who even committed perjury in court).

    G&M’s Margaret Wente: “Because of the massive publicity and inflated rhetoric that surrounded the Ghomeshi case, many people are likely under the impression that the allegations were far more serious than they were. Choking, punching, slapping and hair pulling are all criminal offences, to be sure. But the alleged assaults were of short duration and did not result in injuries. When they learned the details of the allegations, several people I spoke with wondered why the case had gone to trial at all.” (From “Save us from hashtag justice”)

    Watch You Tube for these clips by Feminism LOL to understand the other side of the one-sided story we have been fed by the mainstream news media and the accusers lobby:
    – “Ghomeshi Accusers Are Liars“
    – “The Truth About Jian Ghomeshi”
    – “Jian Ghomeshi: The collusion to destroy his life”
    – “Jesse Brown and Kathryn Borel lied about Ghomeshi and the CBC”

    Women – like anyone else — can lie and make false accusations of sexual assault. An enlightening article is “False Rape Allegations: An Assault On Justice” by Dr. Bruce Gross (now Director, USC Institute of Psychiatry and Law).

    • M. Taylor

      “Being falsely accused of rape is, arguably, at least as traumatic as being raped.”
      Tony, you’re a tool.

      • Tony

        Taylor, you’re a tool for your ad hominem attack.

        Being falsely accused of sexual assault is, arguably, at least as traumatic as being sexually assaulted, including rape. Diana Davison offers some common sense: “Rape can affect the sexual life of a victim for the rest of their lives. A false accusation can affect the sexual life of a victim for the rest of their lives. Rape can cause an innocent person to feel like they are living in a virtual prison. A false allegation can cause an innocent person to live in a literal prison. Rape can cause extreme physical damage or be part of a murder. A false accusation can result in death. Rape can result in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A false accusation can result in PTSD. The reason we are asked to listen with compassion to anecdotal evidence of a rape and not anecdotal evidence of false rape accusations is the premise that a woman’s life is more important than a man’s.” (From “Reasonable Doubt”)

        Even if there is no conviction, false accusations of sexual assault have: tarnished the reputations of innocent men; destroyed them emotionally, socially and economically; and caused their family distress – for years or even for life. It’s worse in highly publicized cases, where the public tends to jump to the conclusion that the accused is guilty, leading to severe social stigma. When their entire world collapses, some innocent men have committed suicide. While society does not protect the male victim who was falsely accused of sexual assault, the women who make false accusations are rarely punished even when their lies are recorded in court.

        It’s hard to appreciate the unspoken issue of false accusations without anecdotes:
        – Telegraph “ ‘Guilty until proven innocent’: life after a false rape accusation”
        – Telegraph “British rape laws need urgent reform to prevent injustice” .
        – LA Times “A 10-year nightmare over rape conviction is over”
        – Daily Mail “My son’s life was ripped apart by a woman who falsely cried ‘rape’… twice”
        – Mirror “Man wrongly accused of rape said it ruined his life and he is now living in a tent”
        – Spectator “The Oxford Union case shows why we need anonymity for men accused of rape”
        – Express “Woman convicted of falsely accusing boyfriend of rape FIVE times to avoid exams”
        – Telegraph “What it’s like to be falsely accused of rape”
        – Metro “ ‘Rocks are thrown at us’: Man describes devastating impact of wrongful accusation of rape”
        – Independent “London Underground worker jailed for falsely claiming she was raped”
        – Express “John Leslie says being falsely accused of rape reduced him to a jobless pauper”
        – BBC “False rape accusation ‘destroyed life’ of Surrey man”

        Barbara Kay: “As for the old feminist mantra that women never lie about abuse, can we finally lay that canard to rest? Women have lied about abuse and will continue to lie. When? When they are unscrupulous people to begin with… they will lie when it comes to their own self-interest, when there is some reward they value for lying (even for so tawdry a motive as celebrity), when there is vengeance to be easily taken on a creep they perceive to have humiliated them, and massive public sympathy to be gained… To add to the temptation – as we have seen in many demonstrably false allegations of rape on campus – there is usually no material consequence for doing so, even when their lies are exposed in courts of law” (From “Feminist chickens come home to roost at the Ghomeshi trial” ) In addition, women who have mental disorders, are criminals or stoned out on drugs/alcohol might also lie about sexual assault.

        Margaret Wente: “False allegations are not rare. “Sadly, they happen all the time” says defence lawyer Kathryn Wells. “It may be revenge, jealousy, payback for cheating, any number of things…” In no area of life are we expected to believe some people, unconditionally. There’s no reason why sexual assault should be an exception.” (From “Save us from hashtag justice”)

        Interesting Q&A discussion in this YouTube clip Karen Straughan “Unpacking comments on my Jian Ghomeshi video” (fast fwd to 1:25)

        • Gerald Coates

          Excellent rebuttal!

        • TheRenaissanceMan

          Apparently men don’t experience emotional anguish

          • WRC

            Or if they do experience anguish, it just doesn’t register as being important to a large sphere of our population.

            It’s like the difference between having knowledge of violent deaths on the other side of the world vs. knowing that your next door neighbours just lost a family member to a horrible murder. The latter feels so much more real.

            Analogously, male victims are those faraway people, and women are right next door.

          • TheRenaissanceMan

            Agreed, appreciate that analogy as well

      • matt10023

        Generalizations will always get people into trouble. Some rapes are horrific and far, far, worse than a false accusation.

        But we can use specific comparisons.

        But what happened to Jian (lost his job, has been vilified by the mob, and been on the receiving end of the power of the state trying to lock him him up for years now) is arguably worse than shoving a woman up against the wall, and mildly striking her (no cuts or bruises).

        Men are far more likely to be beaten up or worse than women when we look at violent crime statistics. But we’d never have the same vitriol over a man getting his lights punched out. Ah, but when it’s “sexual assault”, then it’s the worst thing ever, even when there are no injuries to the woman.

        Of course there are plenty of men being raped – take prisons for instance – but that’s doesn’t register with the twitter crowd.

  • Mikronos

    Rape culture may be alve and well but the Gomeshi trial indicates that two are still required to tango. Gomeshi may have been foward, or pushy or intimidating or ‘taking advantage’ but a rapist, apparently, he is not. That was borne out in the evidence elicited from a number of his accusers, they were up for a ‘partay’ – up to a point. That the point reoccurred is germane – for this *or at leat theirs) doesn’t victim behaviour.

    If there is a rape culture and some women are offended by that, they need to makes sure that their charges are valid, backed by some evidence and that they weren’t participants in theit own undoing. And get it done (reported) – in less than 12 months.

  • Greg Nixon

    Tatum Miller is correct. Like it or not, the law must work on principles and with trustworthy, consistent witnesses, not on a current cultural construct that “all sexual abuse survivors are to be believed”. Ghomeshi is revealed as a dirty little scumbag who used his position to get away with mild sexual violence, but his accusers seemed to have hidden motives, worked together to “get him”, and they concealed testimony that revealed they either did or wished to continue the relationship with Ghomeshi after the incidents. There is no firm basis for a conviction of sexual assault.

    • WRC

      I agree with your general point, however…

      I emphatically disagree that “Ghomeshi is revealed as a dirty little scumbag who used his position to get away with mild sexual violence…”.

      It’s true that his accusers have characterized him that way, and that repetition by thousands of journalists, editors and commenters has reinforced that picture. Having been thoroughly indoctrinated by that message, it’s easy to forget that the original basis for those beliefs was accusation by people who’ve subsequently been discovered to be grossly dishonest and vindictive.

      It’s a powerful example of how devastating rumours can be, and that much of their damage can never be undone.

      • Greg Nixon

        Okay. The scapegoat urge is alive and well. But he is a little man who likes to hurt to women, even if it is by consensus (by his own admission). Sadism is usually built on a foundation of compensation for self-doubt or self-loathing, so he must have a lot to compensate for. But, you’re right, I don’t know the man, and the testimony clearly seemed to clearly reveal three women who wanted more of whatever Ghomeshi had to give, which flies right in the face of the mass of protests. The law was served.

  • matt10023

    The verdict is not a victory for rape culture, unless you think that witnesses can blatantly lie on the stand, and collude before the trial (despite being told not to) and retain their credibility.

    Not remembering every detail in emails and letters, and romantic encounters afterwards is understandable. What’s not understandable is categorically stating to police, prosecutors, and the court that you didn’t have anything but disgust for him after the event, but months of later emails say otherwise (not to mention a sexual act well after the fact).

    The accused does not have to testify, and frankly you’d think that one sided testimony against him should be enough, when it’s the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.

    If the women didn’t try to game the system, then their testimony would have been much more powerful. But they did lie and break the rules. Shame on them, not the system.

    • WRC

      “If the women didn’t try to game the system, then their testimony would have been much more powerful.”

      I completely agree with your comment.

      That said, if it weren’t for lies, I doubt there would have been a case at all.

  • Littlefoxpaws

    “One particularly awful aspect of the Ghomeshi trial was the implication that continuing contact with an abuser means giving consent in every situation.”

    This is absolutely maddening and makes me wonder how many of the journalists reporting on the Ghomeshi trial actually read the judge’s transcripts.

    The judge specifically said THAT THEIR BEHAVIOR AFTER THE ASSAULT DID NOT AFFECT THEIR CREDIBILITY.

    They lied to the prosecutors about their relationship with Ghomeshi, which if they claim ended after the assault, makes them LIARS IN A CASE THAT COULD SEND A HUMAN BEING TO PRISON FOR MOST OR ALL HIS LIFE.

  • Tony

    Many people have prematurely jumped to conclusions on Ghomeshi’s alleged behaviour: “misogynistic,” “wrong,” “a little man who likes to hurt to women,” “a dirty little scumbag who used his position to get away with mild sexual violence,” etc. – based mostly on one side of the story alleged by his accusers and the other rumour-mongers originally publicized by the questionable Jesse Brown.

    Ghomeshi’s eventual book will fill in many blanks (perhaps he’ll have a recording to prove that he never choked Lucy at all; or choked her in reaction to the Vagina Monologues actress squeezed his testicles without his consent; etc.). Regardless, the reality remains that no one (except Ghomeshi and his accusers) knows what really happened or did not happen in the few minutes of the alleged incidents, all of which were too short in duration and did not result in injury to have caused much trauma, if any (even liberal feminist Rosie DiManno saw through the three accusers: “As witnesses, they were disastrous – deceitful. They failed to seduce the judge. They failed to seduce any clear-eyed spectator. But they certainly tried hard to play the poor victim card”).
    – Youtube “The Ins and Outs of BDSM – The Ghomeshi Files”

    The Ghomeshi trial showed that the mainstream media’s one-sided version of the story was weak on investigative journalism. Fearing a backlash from the sexual assault accusers lobby, no mainstream journalist was willing to dig deeper even though there are enough facts to raise red flags, as suggested in these You Tube clips by Diana Davison on her Feminism LOL channel:
    – “The Truth About Jian Ghomeshi”
    – “The Fraud Behind the Ghomeshi Scandal”
    – “Jian Ghomeshi: The collusion to destroy his life”
    – “Ghomeshi Accusers Are Liars“
    – “Jesse Brown and Kathryn Borel lied about Ghomeshi and the CBC”

    As a musician and radio celebrity, Ghomeshi had sexual flings with possibly several thousand women over the past 20 years. Out of thousands of his sex partners, only a tiny fraction of 20 or so rumour-mongers emerged (most of them still hiding behind their anonymity). Despite such a large pool of potentially assaulted victims, are these three the strongest accusers the prosecution could find? The prosecution surely wanted to start off with winning cases that resulted in convictions. Thus the prosecution chose the three accusers for the first trial because it seemed they had the strongest cases of all the rumour-mongers. Instead, the first trial easily discredited these three accusers as deceitful, inaccurate, unreliable and untrustworthy. The remaining rumour-mongers likely have weaker (or no) cases and credibility than the three discredited accusers in the February trial and the fourth accuser in the June trial. Indeed, one year ago, the prosecution already withdrew sexual assault charges of two other accusers because their cases were too weak for a conviction. Common sense should raise red flags about the allegations.

    Horny women looking for sexual flings tend to flirt with, chase and seduce ‘bad boys’ hoping to have mind-blowing casual sex with them. Ghomeshi probably possesses some of these ‘bad boy’ traits: confidence; assertive; exudes power and control; dominant; good talker; exciting; has a busy dating life; secure and sure of himself; mysterious and unpredictable; indifferent; and/or hard to please; etc. A celebrity bad boy like Ghomeshi was thus a prized ‘conquest’ to those women who lusted him. No wonder the three complainants were attracted to Ghomeshi like flies to honey (e.g., they were motivated to keep chasing Ghomeshi for more sex flings – even after he rebuffed, humiliated or dumped them after the alleged incidents – obviously because they got value from their rough sex flings with him). However, when they were rejected after they had invested so much to snare a prize like Ghomeshi, it is plausible that these scorned women became vindictive.

    Remember, this is the arts, music and entertainment community – it’s chockful of promiscuous women and men looking to hook up for one-night stands and other casual sexual flings. Some of Ghomeshi’s sexual partners were probably rougher, kinkier and more promiscuous than he was.

    Many men still harbor false impressions about women when it comes to sex. Many women who are high on their sexual impulses are willing to behave in more aggressive ways that are eye-opening. For example, male strippers reveal that they have been sexually assaulted by female patrons. Women get more drunk, have more fun, act more crazy and behave more badly at a male strip show — than men do at a female strip show.
    – “(Strip club owner Annie) Delisle, who grew up around the business, has observed that men and women react differently to striptease performances. Men, she said, tend to be quiet when they are at a strip club: “Guys drink their beer. Women laugh and scream.” (From “Ex-male strippers reflect on life after lap dances at 35-year-old Montreal club”)
    – “(Male stripper) Aidan believes that, in terms of stripper etiquette, women are more badly behaved than men. “I guess maybe they feel like it’s OK because we’re guys and that’s our job. We get used to it but the women are definitely a lot more crazy and full-on than guys. “Women try to pull your G-string down or grab you but at the end of the day it’s part of our job and you just have to expect it. “If men do it it’s sleazy and they get kicked out of the club and possibly beaten up in an alley. If women do it it’s fun.” Something of a double standard Aidan? “It’s finally a double standard that works for women. “Generally in this job you end up having eyes in the back of your head. You can feel when something like a G-string grab is about to happen. I usually try to keep one hand on it at all times. If you let go someone will grope you.” He deals with the violation by trying to smile and move on. “You can’t let it bug you.” (From “Confessions of a male stripper”)

    Further reading
    – Cosmopolitan “Why Wanting Rough Sex Is More Common Than You Think”
    – Alternet “Women Who Have Rough Sex: Why It Can Be Liberating”
    – Maxim “A Male Stripper Tells All”
    – “When It Comes to Promiscuity, Are Women the New Men?” “Women love getting laid as much as men do, ‘more likely to be promiscuous’ “
    – “Studies suggest that ovulating women experience a human version of “heat” “
    – “Ovulation Changes Women’s Behavior”
    – “Why Do Girls Like Bad Boys?”
    – “Why women can’t resist bad boys”
    – “The Science Behind Bad Boys: Why You’re Always Chasing Players”
    – “Why women love bad boys: People with pathological traits have a better chance of finding love, claims study”
    – “Why women love bad boys, according to science”
    – “There’s a Scientific Reason Women Like Bad Boys, So You Can Tell Your Mom To Get Off Your Case Already”
    – “Science Reveals Why Women Like Bad Boys“
    – “Sex with ‘bad boys’ might be irresistible to women – but you don’t have to marry one”
    – “Why do nice girls fall for bad boys?”
    – “12 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Nice Guys Just Don’t Get The Girl”
    – “Why Girls Never Want Nice Guys — And Why It’s Too Late When They Do”
    – “Why Women Fall For Jerks”
    – “Ghomeshi’s sex appeal tough to understand”

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