Update, Oct. 29: I have just heard Carol Off’s interview on CBC with a woman who said she was attacked by Jian Ghomeshi. I found it completely convincing because Carol Off asked all the questions that needed answering. I have not one shadow of a doubt that this woman’s account is true. I also really, really wish she had reported it to the police. And so does she. And, just one more thing, I wish her nurse friend had encouraged her to go to the police too.
Many people are outraged when I tell them that Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers lose credibility with me because of their failure to report his alleged assaults to the police. How dare you say such a stupid thing, they say. You support rape culture. Or, if they’re kind, they just face palm.
“Why didn’t they report it?” has become the new “Why didn’t they just leave?”
Please don’t tell me how hard it is to report a sexual assault. I get it. I’ve been following this issue for 40 years. And when you go on and on about how difficult it is, you’re ignoring decades of progress. You’re acting as if nothing can ever change. And you’re discouraging other women from coming forward. So, yes, when I hear a woman didn’t report an alleged sexual assault, I do wonder why.
Now please take note again, and understand that that does not mean I’m accusing this non-reporting woman of being a liar. But it does mean I have some questions for her.
In the Jian Ghomeshi case, the answers the Star provided from the three women who said they were violently assaulted, did not answer those questions. The Star stated:
None of the women filed police complaints and none agreed to go on the record. The reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation. (A woman who wrote an account of an encounter with a Canadian radio host believed to be Ghomeshi was subjected to vicious Internet attacks by online readers who said they were supporters of the host.)
Here’s the problem. The women are more likely to have their identities revealed and be sued by having gone to the press instead of the police. If charges had been laid, their names would have been protected by a publication ban and anyone breaking the ban would have been subject to criminal prosecution. For some reason, this was not mentioned in the Star.
Nor was the fact that the vicious internet attacks sparked by the woman who wrote about her date-gone-wrong with Ghomeshi were equal opportunity. Anyone who reads comment threads can go see for themselves that Ghomeshi was vilified right alongside the writer.
It also deserves to be said that the Carla Ciccone article — a blind item published in 2013 and designed to generate buzz — was probably where this current mess began. It brought the talk about Ghomeshi out onto the internet in a way it never had been before. It’s why people were speculating before his Facebook post went up that this was going to be a sexual story.
To come back, however, to the specific allegations of violent assault made in the Star article, I find them shocking and disturbing. But I also find it shocking and disturbing that, for the accused, there is really no way to defend himself against this type of anonymous accusation in a trial by media.
Of the four accounts given by the women to the Star, the one I actually found the least credible was the story of sexual harassment at work.
The woman said she complained about Ghomeshi’s behaviour to her union representative, who took the complaint to a Q producer. As the woman recalls, the producer asked her “what she could do to make this a less toxic workplace” for herself. No further action was taken by the CBC, and the woman left the broadcaster shortly thereafter.
As a former employee of the CBC (a very long time ago), it just defies belief that the union rep would blow something like this off and that the Q producer wouldn’t know it was a ticking time bomb. And why was there no complaint to HR? (Yesterday, both the CBC and its main union said they had never received a formal complaint against Ghomeshi.) Where were the sympathetic women colleagues? This is, after all, the CBC we’re talking about not the NFL. Given that the Star says it had several detailed interviews with this woman, how did these questions not come up?
I know that by now some of you readers are very angry at me for putting the alleged victims on trial and being part of the whole rape culture apparatus. So once again, I get it. I know that, in a criminal action, even if the accusers are highly credible, they would be up against a defendant who, as an immensely talented broadcaster, knows exactly how to tell his story. It could very well end up a “he says, she says” case with a jury unable to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I have no solution to propose to that problem just like I have no solution to the problem of murderers who walk on a technicality or the inhumane delays in getting cases to trials. I don’t, however, much like your solution where due process is thrown out the window, we accept that women never ever lie about sexual assault, and we forget about that whole right to face your accusers thing.
Speaking of which, in his Facebook post, Ghomeshi made a comment that hasn’t really been picked up on. “The ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations,” he wrote.
Given that his statement was highly strategic and very well planned, I can’t help but wonder if hearing from the ex won’t be the next instalment in this awful story. The internet outrage machine will soon be ready for its next stoking once the election news has died down.