One of the most vexing prosecutions to the north was that of Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian musician and radio star charged with sexual assault. He was cool. He was a voice of social justice. And when he was the target of allegations by more than 23 accusations of sexual abuse, he was unemployed and a pariah. As is the fashion, he was assumed guilty by all, because “survivors” must be believed, and, as has been urged in the Bill Cosby allegations of rape, multiple accusers can’t possibly be wrong.
While there is a problem when a defendant is convicted, that they can never sufficiently pay their debt to society, no matter what the crime, so that they can move on with a productive, law-abiding life, there is a collateral problem when a defendant is acquitted. Once accused, at least when it comes to a crime of gender, there is no way out. There is no debt to pay, no retribution to cleanse the hatred, no finality, because acquittal does not prove innocence. There is never innocence.
Which leaves a question that demands an answer: what went wrong? How did this obviously guilty person get away with it? Unsurprisingly, the answer can be found in how “survivors” were failed by the system. Jezebel explains:
After Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal Thursday morning on sexual abuse charges, two of the women who testified against him spoke to Chatelaine, a Canadian women’s magazine. Both actress Lucy DeCoutere and an anonymous woman say they were ill-prepared to testify; the anonymous woman has launched a website to help assault survivors prepare for court.
The first witness told Chatelaine she was unaware that her rambling, nervous police statement would ultimately be used in court and given to the defense:
They should have informed me that every word I said could be disclosed to the defence should there be a charge. When I went to the police, I felt like I was venting; there wasn’t much direction. The police won’t tell you to take your time, be descriptive, use words and not gestures. It would have been helpful if they had stressed that I check through emails to see if I had any communications with Jian. Jian was read his rights and told anything he says could be used against him in a court of law. It turns out anything a witness says can be used against them, too.
The Toronto police say otherwise, which Jezebel reluctantly offers in a parenthetical.
(The Toronto Police Service told Chatelaine in a statement that all the victims were made aware that their statements were being given under oath, that they could be used in court, and were asked to disclose any further contact they had with Ghomeshi following the alleged assaults.)
Perhaps the victim, unnamed still despite the fact of acquittal, never saw a TV show involving a trial. Who can blame her for that? Perhaps it came as a total surprise to learn that making a complaint of a crime to the police wasn’t the same as “venting” to her support group. It could happen. Perhaps the idea that the person she accused would be entitled to a defense “felt” so very wrong, because she was the
victim survivor. That’s certainly the message being broadcast loud and clear.
Or perhaps the problem was that, as Justice Horkins found, she was not a credible witness.
Meanwhile, actress Lucy DeCoutere was also interviewed by Boesveld, acknowledged that things “spectacularly” fell apart during the trial. She, too, was questioned about warm, flirtatious emails she sent to Ghomeshi followed the alleged assault (“I want to fuck your brains out, tonight” one read) and flowers she sent him:
Post-incident conduct — that term has come to haunt me. When I was concerned about emails with Jian, they were emails from before [the assault]. I wasn’t even thinking about after because I didn’t think it mattered — because it shouldn’t matter. Now I understand that it matters because it measures your memory. I didn’t know my memory was on trial.
Unlike the unnamed “first witness,” actress Lucy DeCoutere accused Ghomeshi publicly. She was the toast of victimhood. What could it possibly have mattered that after her alleged attack, she emailed him “I want to fuck your brains out, tonight”? Why would such a “flirtatious” (apparently, flirtatious has changed since my wayward youth) email suggest that she was, I dunno, not sexually assaulted?
But how dare a court put her “memory on trial.” She was the victim. She was the survivor. And yet, the cruel system put her memory on trial? At Slate, the failure of Ghomeshi’s trial to prove “guilt” was proved by embedded twits of observers who offered insight like:
If you think victims should remember all details from assault 10+ yrs ago, tell me what you wore last Wednesday #Ghomeshi
— Angelina Chapin (@angelinachapin) March 24, 2016
That the notion is far more applicable to the innocent accused fails to register on the radar. One need only believe survivors with absolute certainty to understand why the irony remains unnoticed. But Slate XX philosopher-writer Christina Cauterucci goes to the source of her outrage.
But the judge’s most repulsive statement came when he proclaimed that believing alleged sexual assault victims are telling the truth is “equally dangerous” as assuming alleged rapists are innocent. The odds are stacked against sexual assault survivors, who must fight consistent blame, suspicion, and accusations of malice when they are brave enough to report the violence perpetrated against them. There is no comparison to the plight of alleged rapists, the vast majority of whom walk free.
It’s not that it’s “repulsive” for a judge to propound the bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence, at least when it applies to any crime not involving sexual assault. Other criminal defendants? Fine. Minority defendants? Absolutely. Rapists? Never.
Though the proponents repetition of the gender fantasy that sexual assault accusers are to be believed without regard to their ability to give credible testimony, tell the same story twice, survive cross-examination where their “memory is on trial,” might explain why the witnesses against Ghomeshi lacked sufficient awareness that they would be expected to give credible testimony.
Or, perhaps they were just lying, hopping aboard the victim-train to enjoy the fame that comes with victimhood at the hands of a celebrity. Nah, that could never happen.