It was not that long ago, mere months actually, where women in Canada were clapping and patting each other on the back, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well, for making progress in Canada by appointing 15 women to his Cabinet. It was a historical and record breaking event. “Because it’s 2015!” he said. Canada was excited. Progress. Finally, a leader in a nation that was not only willing, but insistent, on creating change for women in a country where women are still disenfranchised, even in 2015. But, only a few months later, in a brand new year, the country has been put behind the 8 ball again, after seriously dropping the ball on the most highly publicized sexual assault trial Canada has seen in years, and maybe even in history. Because it’s 2016. And yesterday the Jian Ghomeshi trial came to an end with the now infamous Jian Ghomeshi verdict that has done nothing but expose how deeply flawed this country really is, when Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of 4 sexual assault charges and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking, reports Vice News March 24.
We followed the Canadian Press live update blog to bring you the most accurate depiction of events inside the grisly courtroom on a rainy, sleety, grisly Toronto day. Most Toronto mainstream outlets have been accused of re-victimizing the victim by twisting their stories, and then calling assault victims liars, based on their twisted reporting. Chatelaine Magazine and the Toronto Star have also been accused of twisting victim’s stories, in testimony under oath on the stand by the victims themselves.
None of these outlets have issued a public apology or retraction to the victims. Jian Ghomeshi hasn’t either.
The CBC, previously one of Canada’s most highly respected news networks and outlets for example, has only interviewed criminal defense attorneys since the Jian Ghomeshi verdict. That’s likely because they have a little bit of egg on their face, since all of Canada now knows that the CBC has in fact created the Ghomeshi monster.
The CBC has escaped a little bit of scrutiny during this round of the Jian Ghomeshi crimes. But they won’t next time when one of their own faces the accused in June. How will they handle it then?
The cloudy and cold weather on Jian Ghomeshi verdict day yesterday was almost prophetic. It was likely colder inside the courtroom yesterday, than it was outside. The chills have been felt all across Canada ever since, and it has nothing to do with Canadian weather, and everything to do with political climate.
Outside the courtroom at Old City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, were protestors standing in the sleet and court chanting, “I Believe Survivors.” Inside, Judge Horkins read for 90 minutes, his explanation on why he could not convict Jian Ghomeshi. It came off as lame to sexual assault survivors, to Canadians, to Americans, and global citizens abroad who are now very saddened for a country who has been put behind the 8 ball again when it comes to progress for women.
Because it’s 2016. What happened?
To be fair, Judge Horkins didn’t have much to go on but the witness testimony itself. Despite posting previously that he had intended to “meet these allegations directly”, Jian Ghomeshi refused to testify. Another lie from the Ghomeshi monster.
Judge Horkins said in his ruling he was not legally able to use that against him. And yet, it still went on the record. So, even he acknowledged that a little bit more evidence from the assailant himself may have helped lead to a conviction.
That’s clearly why Ghomeshi did not testify. His testimony would have finished him. Silence is not golden for the golden boy of CBC, regardless of what personal outcome he felt yesterday. Ghomeshi’s legal troubles are far, far from over.
Yesterday even Judge Horkins acknowledged, acquitting Jian Ghomeshi does not mean that these assaults and choking events did not happen. So, calling Ghomeshi an assailant is fair game. Because that’s what he did, and everybody knows it now.
What Judge Horkins made very clear in his 26-page ruling was, there was not enough evidence to convict. He did not say Ghomeshi was innocent, and in fact made it clear that he’s pretty convinced the events happened. He just didn’t have enough evidence to convict.
Even so, Judge Horkins spent over 90 minutes and 26 pages discussing evidence that allegedly does not exist. Anyone following the trial, in or out of the courtroom knew early on where the verdict was going when Judge Horkins said that, because Ghomeshi did not testify, he could only rule based on the victim’s evidence itself. According to the Canadian Press he said,
“It is significant because as a result the judgment of this court depends entirely on an assessment of the credibility and reliability of each complainant as a witness.”
And so, victims all over this great land felt re-victimized again. And waited for the acquittal that was so obviously on its way. Over 90 grueling minutes he victimized them again, and again. He chose his words very carefully over those 26 pages.
He didn’t want to become another Judge Camp. That would be the Calgary, Alberta, judge we have previously covered, who is now facing a public inquiry from the highest legal branch in the land for asking a rape victim why she “didn’t just keep her knees together.” Even so, Judge Horkins may not be facing public inquiry, yet, he has done just the same to these victims that Judge Camp did to the one that came before him.
Some legal experts are saying though, if enough legal eagles are upset about his 26-page ruling, and they are, his very own public inquiry could happen soon enough. Judge Horkins slammed every single thing the sexual assault victims did before, during, and after the events where they were slapped, punched in the head, and choked.
Clearly, he has no idea about what really happens to a sexual assault survivor before, during, and after such traumatic events. Clearly, Judge Horkins knows nothing about trauma, memory recall, and that how a victim behaves after an assault does not change the fact that an assault did in fact actually happen. He outright said, “the victim’s behaviour is odd.” So what?
It doesn’t change that she was slapped, punched in the head, and had her hair pulled. For some reason hair extensions made it into this now famous ruling. This, despite the fact that whether a woman had hair extensions or not, or remembers whether she had them or not in 2003, is irrelevant to the fact that she was indeed slapped and punched.
Other matters that re-victimized the victims were bikini photos, handwritten letters that were creepily kept by Jian Ghomeshi, and that two of the three victims in this trial supported each other by email after the fact. Again, so what?
One set of emails that came into testimony revealed that the only named victim in this case, Lucy DeCoutere, wanted with her new friend victim three, wanted to, “sink the prick.” This was used against her when she was re-victimized by victim blaming yesterday. Clearly Judge Horkins has never been sexually assaulted.
Most victims of sexual assault want to “sink the prick.” There is nothing illegal, immoral, or wrong, about wanting someone to sink for hurting you. But with a system like this, will they ever be able to?
The third and final blow to sexual assault victims everywhere came with the worst victim blaming statement of all. Judge Horkins came almost as close as Judge Camp did in shameful behaviour, when he accused the third Jian Ghomeshi victim of “playing chicken with the justice system.”
In the game of chicken, someone dies. That’s the whole intent of the game. So basically Judge Horkins is saying here, to these victims, and to victims everywhere, you lost the game of chicken, you are done.
He also accused them of not being truthful enough. And yet, they were the only ones in the Jian Ghomeshi trial that actually spoke out loud, that had their entire personal and professional lives on display along with the most intimate and gruesome details of their lives. But they didn’t say enough.
What more could they have done? Nothing. Obviously, with Jian Ghomeshi cowering behind the legality of not having to testify, there was nothing more they could have said, or done. In his final ruling, Judge Horkins tried to play both sides. Heaven forbid that awkward public inquiry be suggested to the higher ups.
“Even if you believe the accused is probably guilty or likely guilty, that is not sufficient. In those circumstances you must give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and acquit.”
That’s not actually true. If a judge in this great country believes an accused to be guilty, it is his sworn job to convict that individual. But he didn’t, even though he very clearly believes Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of these charges. He said,
“The allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi are supported by nothing in addition to the complainant’s word. There is no other evidence to look to. There is no smoking gun. There is only sworn evidence of each complainant standing on its own.”
So, in other words, Judge Horkins believes, and ruled, that it can’t be held against Jian that he didn’t testify, but that fact can be held against the victims. Their problem, not his, or so it seemed to Canadian women everywhere. What is that if that is not the very definition of victim blaming?
After saying, “courts must guard against applying false stereotypes”, Judge Horkins then did exactly that. He applied false stereotypes. But he was quick to cover his tail for the other side of the fence.
“My conclusion that the evidence in this case raises a reasonable doubt is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened.”
Jian Ghomeshi was then acquitted of all charges against him, officially. By then, it came as no surprise to anyone. The usual public outcry following a high profile trial occurred in fury over social media, and still does today. This time however, the public fury is not just angry. Canada is also very sad for victims everywhere.
Prior to the verdict, PR pundits were saying they expected a public apology from Jian Ghomeshi as he tried to save face, no matter what happened. That didn’t happen. He slunk outside of the courtroom through the back, and then put his sister in the front to handle the media.
Again, victims were infuriated but not surprised by this. Jila Ghomeshi’s words following the ruling were, weird, awkward, and uncomfortable. She wanted us to feel sympathy for the man that Canada now knows as terrorizing and assaulting women. According to 24 News reported on March 24 she said,
“We are relieved but not surprised by the court’s decision today. It can only be surprising to those who rushed to judgment before the trial even started, and before a single word of evidence had been heard…..We are not speaking as, for, or against women, but as members of a close family. Our hardest burden has been our feeling of helplessness, as we watched him endure a punishment that was delivered not only prior to a verdict, but prior to any semblance of due process for well over a year. It has been extremely painful for those of us who love him. Jian has, however, remained the person we know and love. We hope Jian and our family will be given the privacy and dignity to slowly heal from a process that has been extremely difficult.”
Apparently Jians sister thinks it’s fair for women to be punched, as she says it wasn’t fair for him to be “punished” before a verdict was rendered. Perhaps she missed the part of the ruling when Judge Horkins ruled that he doesn’t deny the violence took place, he just didn’t have enough to convict.
Interesting family dynamics happening there. It is one that hints that abuse of power resulting in violence against women by a member of one of the most high profile news outlets in the country, should not be criticized by the public who watches that very same network.
All of a sudden Jian wants privacy. Of course he does. One little slip and there’s new evidence that means grounds for appeal from the Crown. He doesn’t want people talking about him, or to him. Kind of weird for someone who once made a living talking to everybody.
Since the now infamous ruling, many high profile women, who also make a living talking to everybody, have stepped forward. The hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors has spread like wildfire on Twitter, and is now becoming paired synonymously with the #Ghomeshi hashtag. It is rare in fact to see the #Ghomeshi hashtag without the #IBelieveSurvivors hashtag.
Rallies were held yesterday after the verdict, in Toronto and all over Canada. Rape shelters from British Columbia to Nova Scotia protested the verdict and supporting sexual assault victims Canada over. In Toronto, the #BlackLivesMatter groups worked in concert with the #IBelieveSurvivors march, chanting in the streets into the evening,
“Our body, our lives, we will not be victimized. #IBelieveSurvivors #WeBelieveSurvivors”
We also tweeted a picture in support of survivors to SACHA with the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors. As well, high ranking women are coming forward to express their dissent. Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario New Democrat Party issued a public statement on her website. The full version can be seen in the slideshow.
“Today, 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault or harassment and yet only 10% report it. It’s the fear of not being believed that stops women from coming forward. I believe survivors. I also believe that we need to do better. Not only do we need to change the culture, we need to think about whether this trial is an opportunity to look at whether the justice system provides the kind of protections women need to feel safe to come forward.”
Most don’t think the justice system in Canada provides those protections. Sarah McLachlan, singer and award winning artist tweeted as well. Her full tweet can also be seen in the slideshow, but her anger and sadness was palpable.
“My heart goes out to the women who were brave enough to speak their truth, yet, were they heard?….I am saddened and angered today. #IBelieveSurvivors. XOS”
The drama of the Jian Ghomeshi verdict is winding down, for now. But not likely for long. All Canada needs is a few high profile women to start complaining to the big wigs about this one.
Until then, Ghomeshi’s legal problems are far from over. If he undergoes a civil suit by any complainant after this trial, he will be forced to testify. Also, he is by no means a free man and is still under his bail conditions as he is facing a second criminal trial on June 6 of this year for similar sexual assault allegations.
This trial will be a bit different as there is only one victim. It is being tried separately because it involves a different factual context according to Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan. The victim in this trial worked with Jian Ghomeshi at the CBC and has a complaint about an alleged sexual assault while working at CBC.
Awesome. Slow clap for CBC who, like Ghomeshi, is being very mum about all of this, unless they are talking to criminal defense attorneys. Perhaps that will be the trial that changes Canada in both the workplace, and in intimate partner relationships. Because something clearly needs to change, because it’s 2016.
Yes we will be following and covering that trial as well. The full 26-page ruling of Judge Horkins is found in this link here. If you missed it, watch “The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi” by the Fifth Estate right here. What is your biggest gut reaction to this case, and this now historical sexual assault ruling in the Jian Ghomeshi verdict?