Jian Ghomeshi Walks, Bullshit Talks

I can’t believe it¦

Except I can. When the case first went to trial, I couldn’t help but be hopeful at the potential for addressing the problem of rape culture and victim blaming. Because in these kinds of situations, hope is what you need.

But at the same time I was skeptical. Because in situations like these, the justice system usually fails. And fail it did today, when the verdict came back that Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges of sexual assault and choking.

My skepticism comes from my own personal experience. I once had to go through the (in)justice system when I pressed charges on a man who had sexually assaulted me. This man was someone I had been talking to, casually dating, was interested in¦ but when it came down to it, this man just didn’t know what no meant.

It was not violent. It was not an attack. It was in my own home, in my own room, in my own bed, with someone who I knew at least well enough to allow into my own home, my own room, my own bed. It took me a few days to go to the police station to file a report, and even then it was only because a friend of mine literally took me there and made me do it.

The first thing the cop asked me was, Why didn’t you come in sooner? followed by, Why didn’t you fight back? I immediately felt guilty for not doing what this system thought I should do, what it thought I was capable of doing.

After the report was filed, it took three years until we actually went to trial. The man who assaulted me kept delaying, changing lawyers, and so on until by the time I finally faced him again in court, I had three years of experiences and memories between me and that night with him.

For some reason, I wasn’t able to watch my video statement before I got on the stand. I wasn’t able to refresh my memory of what exactly I said, what exactly had happened. Though I remember the basics, details and consistency are evidently what’s needed.

His brother was at the trial, staring at me with a dirty look on his face the whole time I was on the stand. I complained to the Crown and they made him move but it still shook me. The cross-examination was tough but I thought I did well, even though there were some questions I couldn’t answer with confidence because I simply couldn’t remember. It was amazing to me how significant the tiniest details were. It was amazing to me how much a defense lawyer could make an innocent person feel guilty. I remember at one point during a particularly horrible line of questioning, when he was getting all up in my face about me not remembering something, I shot back at him, Have you ever been raped before? Because you generally try to block that shit out after.

At the end of it all, he was found not guilty. The reason? There were inconsistencies in my story. A combination of time, intimidation and discomfort made me unable to recount my story the exact same way I had the first time, three years prior. And this is exactly what happened to the witnesses of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, except they had to wait way longer than three years to tell their story. I can’t imagine how they must have felt to be involved in such a highly publicized case, with all those people staring at them, while they try their best to not make a mistake.

Unfortunately the way our system works, if someone tells an inconsistent story then they are automatically assumed to be lying. Nobody cares that maybe their story is inconsistent on account of them being nervous, scared, traumatized, intimidated, confused, or simply that so much time has passed that their memory is foggy. Nobody considers how the victim’s own insecurities might be the reason that they keep in contact after the fact, because they feel at fault or feel they are to blame, or don’t realize that they have been wronged. The majority of Canadians don’t fully understand what the word consent even means.

One thing Ghomeshi’s lawyer pointed to that really stood out to me was how one woman failed to disclose how she had had a sexual encounter with Ghomeshi after the assault. But what I can’t wrap my head around is why this matters? Just because she said yes once doesn’t mean she means yes every time, and just because she said no once doesn’t mean she’ll say no every time. Consent is a matter of in the moment, and to those who say that you’d think she’d be too traumatized to contact him again, you’re wrong. Trauma can sometimes take a long time to set in. It wasn’t until recently that the entire weight of what happened to me actually sunk in and in thinking about it, my heart started pounding and my hands starting shaking and I started crying”a reaction that everyone would think I should have had right away didn’t happen until now, years later. During the entire process and trial, I was steady as a rock. We can’t ever say for certain how someone will react to trauma and what’s more is that it shouldn’t matter”what matters is that the assault happened in the first place. Regardless of our own reaction to it, the fact is that it’s wrong.

Something needs to change because it’s clear that we are losing the battle against rape culture “ it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Today is a sad sad day for victims everywhere because I know, with pain in my heart while writing this, that so many reading this will be able to relate to my own story, or to the countless stories of countless victims who have been subjected to the horrible joke that is our supposed justice system.

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