The case of Jian Ghomeshi: commentary from the anti-violence frontline

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      Starting with the obvious: Jian Ghomeshi is a man. Those he allegedly* assaulted and harassed are women. The crux of this matter is yet another example of male violence against women. Though this story may seem exceptional, in reality it has many commonalities with other men’s attacks on women.

      (*The use of the word allegedly is not to imply we do not believe the women who spoke with the Toronto Star but to protect us from a potential lawsuit that will drain our limited resources in legal defence instead of using them to support women victims of male violence.)

      Jian Ghomeshi is a man with high social status; the women whom he allegedly* attacked were his much younger fans. His social position gave him access to these women. As a class, men have more social, economic, and political power than women as a class. Individual men have more power than the individual women they attack. Many of the women who call our crisis line are battered women who were attacked by their husbands, daughters who were attacked by their fathers, female employees who were attacked by their male superiors, or prostituted women who were attacked by their pimps and johns.

      At least four women have revealed their alleged* experiences of Ghomeshi’s sexism. Sexist men who attack women almost always do it repetitively. They either attack the same victim again or they will attack other women. All men have a choice, but those who choose to be violent towards women will rarely stop on their own.

      Through his lawyer, Ghomeshi said he “does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex”. In his public statement on Facebook, he wrote that he has “done nothing wrong”.

      When (seldom) challenged for their assault on women, the attackers will often say “I didn’t do it” or “She made me do it” (this outrageous argument is even made by men who kill their female partners). When it comes to rape and sexual assault, the most common defence is “She wanted it” or “It was consensual.”

      In our work at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter we have rarely encountered a case of a man admitting he is guilty. In the rare cases men do, it is usually a strategic move after realizing Crown counsel holds unquestionable evidence (often a video record of the rape made by the rapist himself no less).

      It is harder to cry consent and discredit the victims when more than one woman comes forward accusing the same man of an attack on her. Ghomeshi claims an ex-girlfriend is spreading lies about him and orchestrating a campaign with other women to “smear” him. In reality, if the women were indeed in touch with each other, it is extremely unlikely they did it to coordinate a manipulative revenge plan and much more likely to support and encourage each other to take on the hard mission of disclosing being attacked by a prominent man.

      Women call our crisis line seeking help in escaping and resisting men’s violence. When they connect with us and with other women in our rape crisis centre, our transition house, and our support group they are encouraged and reinforced in their efforts to warn and protect other women, to stop the violent man and to hold him accountable.

      Three women interviewed by the Star alleged* that Ghomeshi physically attacked them on dates without consent. They told the paper he struck them with a closed fist or open hand, bit them, choked them until they almost passed out, covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing, and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.

      The reasons the women gave for not coming forward publicly included the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation and that their consent or acceptance of fantasy role-play discussions with Ghomeshi would be used against them as evidence of consent to the unwanted violence. Unfortunately, they are not far off. However, the more public support they will receive the more likely they are to come forward and to speak the truth about their experiences in their own names.

      It is too soon to predict the impact of this case in the long run, however; it seems that now more than ever the public discourse reveals an understanding of the idea and the meaning of genuine consent. This is a hard won achievement for the women’s movement that is now not only reflected in our laws and Supreme Court decisions but also in the opinions and beliefs of much of the Canadian public. We can only hope that this growing understanding will translate to a greater commitment to women’s rights and control of our bodies as a crucial step towards women’s equality.

      Comments

      27 Comments

      shlomo

      Oct 28, 2014 at 4:28pm

      This reads like parody in its assumption of guilt of the accused with no conviction or evidence.

      John Reed

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:00pm

      to shlomo

      Agreed - this reads like a Soviet article from 1937.

      Mr jim374

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:35pm

      We have laws and proceses in this country. I am not saying he is innocent , not saying he is guilty , but just because somebody accuses you of something doesnt make it so. He and his accusers get their day in court , and if the evdence dictates , he will be found guilty. I , like many , know people who have been victims of violence , and they went to the cops , not the local newspaper.

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      Judy

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:40pm

      It seems unlikely that four women would risk the massive backlash - that they must have known would face them even as anonymous accusers - in order to get "revenge". I don't think I've ever met or heard any man or woman who had 4 exes gang up on them in order to get "revenge".

      However, innocent until proven guilty.

      It would be nice if even one of these women could get a competent lawyer to act for them pro bono. It would be nice to see / hear some evidence, such as photos of bruises or testimony grok
      people who saw bruises or at least were confided in at the time the alleged attacks took place.

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      Patrick

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:48pm

      I am sad by your article. We live in a society where presumption of innocence and the rule of law is a driving tenant. That tenant is used to protect women and men from unproven allegations of guilt. Societies that do not value these principles or did not value this in the past, have overwhelmingly used an untested presumption of guilt to persecute women i.e. witch hunts or female treatment in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. There are many other tested and proven examples that you could have used to make an informed and relevant point, but you picked the sensational, unproven and even at this time un-accused and by proxy, an innocent human being, to attach them to rape and violence against women by men. Why does this matter? You loose support from men such as my self and you allow for society to support sensational open reporting which often is used against women. Encouraging people to come forward and report issues is an excellent topic, but by attaching an alleged offender in such drastic fashion to an offence, before proven guilt, does not encourage women or men to come forward, as they fear facing the same unproven allegations. Just as you have used "alleged*" to "protect" yourself, so can others do the same to the victims of this case, as well as, all other victims of other cases. Presumption of innocence does not only protect the offenders until proven guilty, it also protects the victims to freely report without the fear of being labeled "alleged*" and diminishing the experience they may have had. Let us support due process, rule of law and support structures to help victims and even offenders to understand the relevant issues and work towards a better society.

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      Vancouver worker

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:53pm

      Prior to this story hitting the news Ghomeshi went directly to his bosses and admitted to some sexual indiscretions (with multiple partners) to participating in what is described as "Bondage Dominant Submisive and Sadism-Masochism" - in the above story now politely called "rough sex"..... If the perpetrator talks directly to their employer about what might come out publicly (to taint both their reputations) I don't think this is 'no conviction or evidence' as shlomo describes.... He admitted it and posted further info on his Facebook account. I don't think he's as innocent as the above makes GG out to be.

      westcoastboi

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:57pm

      Hmm so no need of evidence or due process? This scares me.

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      pinkas

      Oct 28, 2014 at 8:22pm

      <irony>

      all men are allegedly* rapists.

      (*The use of the word allegedly is not to imply we do not for a moment believe that all externally gonadic men aren't in fact congenital rapists, but this sneer star (*) is employed so as to falsely protect us from any potential lawsuit that would otherwise detract us from having it both ways and to help continue our fatwa against dudekind as a matter of received faith. The lawsuit that we might otherwise deserve by libelling Mr. Ghomeshi absent any facts, will drain our limited resources in legal defence instead of using these same resources to support our delirious ad hominem cant rendered in finely wrought agitprop such as this.)

      We join cuntinglinguist.com's balanced piece on JG, comparing him to the likes of Clinton/ Saville & Phil Spector no less. No *alleged guilt by association is intended and no small animals were hurt during the making of this film.

      </irony>

      If Mr. Gomeshi did in fact harass a colleague at work, this alone might constitute sufficient cause, though I presume some progressive discipline might need otherwise apply but absent any facts, he is innocent until proven guilty. Period.

      This needs to be tried as objectively as possible in an administrative court, not on the blogosphere with these thinly veiled drive-by / pile-ons.

      A woman

      Oct 28, 2014 at 9:04pm

      Good article. Thank you!

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