Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Ghomeshi trial may be doing women a disservice

I'm not sure that I am finding the Jian Ghomeshi trial quite as riveting as may Canadians. More than anything, I find it all kind of sad and sleazy. But, as more and more dirt finds its way out into the open, I am beginning to think that the three accusers may actually be doing women something of a disservice in pursuing this particular conviction.
It may even be that the three women, possibly in collusion - apparently there has been a substantial amount of conferring between them in the run-up to the trial - may actually be pursuing some secret agenda of their own in seeking to bring down the once-popular radio personality. I do hope that does not prove to be the case.
I am not personally a big fan of Ghomeshi, although he once was a very good radio interviewer. Whether or not I approve of his peculiar sexual predilections and peccadilloes, he does seem to have been a particularly nasty and difficult guy to work with, and at least verbally abusive to his underlings, both male and female.
But the three accusing women are not coming across as much nicer (especially under the withering interrogations of Marie Henein, Ghomeshi's bulldog of a defence lawyer), and it's kind of difficult to feel very sympathetic to them. For example, all three seem to have been pretty desperate to continue to see Ghomeshi after the incidents they are complaining of, and at least one of them did indeed have further sexual encounters with him. Some of the comments from their emails and letters after the incidents are making the salacious rounds of the press, like Lucy DeCoutere's sophisticated "You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to fuck your brains out tonight" and "I'm sad we didn't spend the night together" and "I love your hands".
The women are all taking the public line that they came into the trial as judicial naïfs, and are shocked at just how much they are having to reveal of their personal life. Certainly, many of their more compromising admissions were not touched on at all in the pre-trial, and Henein is doing her best to portray them as dissimulators rather than ingénues, which may or may not be fair. These are, after all, reasonably educated people with expensive lawyers to advise them, and their memories of specific events do seem a little selective.
Anyway, I don't want to fall into the trap of making my own prejudgments and unearthing my own hidden prejudices. I do feel a mite sorry for the accusers, caught as they are in the full glare of the press headlights. And, when all is said and done, an uninvited sexual attack is still an uninvited sexual attack. This should, after all, be a trial of Mr. Ghomeshi and his actions, and it is turning into anything but.
But I just have this feeling that the attention this trial is receiving is doing women as a whole no favours, and may even serve to further discourage women from reporting sexual attacks in the future, which would be a real shame.

It came as no great surprise to me that Ghomeshi was ultimately acquitted of all of these charges. Essentially, the evidence did not meet the standard for a crimimal conviction.
The judge, in his summing up, used words like "deceptive" and "manipulative" in reference to the three women complainants, and made it clear that the inconsistencies in their testimonies and their behaviour, as well as their apparent collusion, were key in his decision. Some feminists have protested the ruling, claiming that this is just the ugly side of patriarchy asserting itself once again, and the #IBelieveSurvivors hashtag has been liberally sprinkled throughout the Canadian suburbs of cyberspace. But I think the majority see it as an unavoidable decision in this particular case.
Either way, Ghomeshi's career is well and truly shot, and he still has another trial coming up later this year over an unrelated workplace harassment charge. The trial was just one sexual assault case among hundreds, but it was a very high-profile one, and it has spotlighted, in a very public way, some of the inadequacies of the police and court handling of such cases, and even the role of the media in such cases.

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