Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

What I wish I’d known before testifying in the Ghomeshi trial

We have followed the case of Jian Ghomeshi since the first accusations of violence were made public. As with many organisations who work in the field of violence against women and girls, our heart sank as the trial began. Every myth and misunderstanding about how perpetrators of violence (sexual and domestic) was rolled out by the media and, more frighteningly, the trial judge. We were not surprised by the verdict of not guilty, nor were we particularly surprised by the misogyny in the judge's summation as evidenced by Eve Peyser, writing for NY Mag.

Whilst the Ghomeshi trial occurred in Canada, it demonstrates the failures of the criminal justice system within the UK and the need for a fundamental restructuring of it:

  • appropriate training for police officers led by specialist organisations
  • appropriate annual training for specialist judges with a ban on non-specialist judges
  • appropriate training for juries
  • Witness statements given to trained staff
  • an independent sexual assault advisor, paid for by the judicial system, for all victims - from their first report throughout any and all criminal proceedings.
  • A ban on the use of myths as a form of defence

It also demonstrates the clear need for mandatory sex and healthy relationships education within schools and an ethical media. The victims in the Ghomeshi trial were treated to the same harassment and abuse that the victim of Adam Johnson received. This harassment needs to be taken seriously by the criminal justice system and not just 'warning' individuals as the Durham police did with those who violated the Sexual Offences Act by naming the victim.

We highly recommend this post written by 'Witness 1' in the Ghomeshi trial which delineates the way she was failed by the Canadian criminal justice system.

In November of 2014, a Toronto mother of two walked into a police station to tell officers that Jian Ghomeshi had assaulted her. She did so after learning two things: 1) She wasn’t the only woman the former CBC radio host allegedly hurt, and 2) There was no statute of limitations on her claim that he had yanked her hair without warning in December 2002 and again in January 2003 before delivering two blows to the side of her head. She sat down with detectives and nervously blurted out her story.

“I just went on and on,” says the woman, one of three complainants in the criminal trial against Ghomeshi, whose name is protected under publication ban. “When I later saw the excerpts of that interview in court, I was horrified,” she says now. “I didn’t recognize myself.”

That police interview was the beginning of a massive learning curve about testifying in a high-profile sexual assault trial, one that concluded today with Ghomeshi being acquitted of all charges. She didn’t know her rambling police interview would be her official statement and later used in court. She didn’t know her subsequent exchanges with detectives about whether or not she was wearing hair extensions during the first assault would be used by Ghomeshi’s defence attorney, Marie Henein, to make her look less credible. She didn’t know her fuzzy recollection of details, such as the colour and make of Ghomeshi’s “Disney car,” would be so incisively scrutinized. And she didn’t know a photo she’d emailed to Ghomeshi of herself in a red string bikini would leave her testimony in tatters.  ....

 

This article was published by Chatelaine on 24.3.16. You can access the full text here.

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