This week marked the start of Jian Ghomeshi’s first trial on sexual assault charges. For those not in Canada here’s a very quick recap: Mr. Ghomeshi was the popular host of a national radio show when numerous sexual assault allegations were made against him in the fall of 2014.
At first, I thought I would follow the trial, like so many of my friends were doing. As one of the biggest trials (media-wise) in Canada’s history, there were no shortage of journalists who were live-tweeting the trial. On that first morning, I couldn’t put down my mobile phone–I might miss what happened next. Then I would Google “Jian Ghomeshi trial” to read more in-depth articles and opinions on what was happening.
As I took everything in, I couldn’t help but think how brave these women were to come forward and tell their story. I looked for statistics and they seem to vary–the best I could find was that only between 8-10% of Canadian sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities, and of those reported, less than half result in a conviction. So to me, these women weren’t just brave–they were heroes who weren’t just telling their stories out loud, but were gambling with our justice system in allowing their every word and action to be scrutinized by lawyers, judges, media, as well as the general public.
By the end of the first day, I felt physically ill. It appeared as though the defence attorney had done some damage to the credibility of the first witness. The second day, I tried again to follow the trial, but again, I felt ill. I reached out to my friend–a Crown attorney who works tirelessly to put the bad guys away–to reassure me that things would be okay and that I could have faith in our justice system. She didn’t tell me that everything would be okay, but she did explain some of the ins and outs of the justice system which helped me better understand some of the questions I had about the case.
As I was talking to her, I began to cry. Deep, heaving, sobs. Why? Because it’s always there, just beneath the surface.
I thought about how my twenty year old self would have responded in a courtroom, or what my actions looked like in the days, weeks, and months after it happened to me. Or how my actions could have been interpreted and portrayed by a skilled defence attorney. And I cried some more: for the women on the stand, for myself, for all those who remain silent, and for all those who share their stories.
I can’t follow the trial anymore. It’s too hard. I am sure there will be no shortage of news articles or Facebook posts to let me know how everything plays out. One of the last things I read about the trial was a statement from Gillian Hnatiw (Lucy deCoutere’s lawyer) which read in part: There is no right or wrong way to cope or react or move forward with your life.
There is no right or wrong way to cope or react or move forward with your life. This statement gives me hope. It gives me hope that the judge will focus on the actions and conduct of the accused, and not on that of the victims. It gives me hope that the media will do the same. It gives me hope that we can raise our children to believe this and that our children will grow up to be respectful of one another.
I’m still sad, but I am also hopeful.
Notes: To read my thoughts from October 2014 when the story first started, click here: https://thinkdreamdo.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/it-makes-me-sad/
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