Due process is a concept I wish I could believe in. By definition due process is “the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person.” For Jian Ghomeshi’s story I think it’s safe to say due process has to do with his right to be “presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”
So we should assume Jiam Ghomeshi is innocent until he has had his day in court. Not only that, at least going by the reaction to this story, we should all just shut up and wait until someone goes to the police because, as we all know, if there’s no charges the women are all lying. All eight of them. Until then, let support for Jian echo down from the hallowed halls of Parliament right after a terrorist attack along with demands we wait until charges are laid, due process takes it’s course, and wonder aloud whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty.
You see this is Canada, and in Canada trial by the media is hardly due process.
Due process. The very saying leaves us thinking about courts, lawyers, police officers, and forensic CSI-type people walking around with little flashlights picking up hairs and getting to the bottom of what happened. Holding criminals responsible and giving victims a sense of justice.
I wonder if the people who believe that bullshit are paying attention at all.
You see, when it comes to sexual violence due process means something else all together. It means something ugly, broken, and so horrifically dysfunctional nine out of ten victims don’t even bother calling the police and nine out of ten who do are left wishing they hadn’t. Due process for victims of sex crimes means doubting detectives, hostile lawyers, and a court process that leaves nearly every victim who comes forward feeling like they’ve been assaulted all over again – even if the case is won.
Community Activist Sandy Garossino recently published a list of questions the women in this case could expect to be asked if they went to the police. Read it over and ask yourself how you would feel being asked how much did you drink, let’s talk about your drug use, are you seeing a psychiatrist, why is there a photo of you partying on Facebook, do you have any piercings or tattoos, this wasn’t your first experience with rough sex was it, why didn’t you take this to the police immediately, and are you trying to get money out of this man?
Publisher Jill Amery was the victim of a break and enter and violent sexual assault in Toronto in 1997. During the trial (thanks to DNA), the defence “tried to spin it that I had picked up this man in a bar in order to make my boyfriend jealous.” Her boyfriend later broke up with her.
That’s the beginning and the reality of due process in Canada when it comes to sexual violence. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the women in the Ghomeshi story choose to remain anonymous. Who can blame them for not trusting the system enough to say anything to anyone other than a freelance journalist and only if they could remain unnamed. Going by the support Ghomeshi’s received it was probably a smart move. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
National Post columnist Christie Blatchford writes that Jian Ghomeshi is “another man vilified by anonymous accusers in the press”. Vilified by anonymous accusers! Seriously?
It was a little over a year ago when the same columnist vilified Rehtaeh Parsons in the press based on nothing more than some selective files from a source close to the case and desperate to change the conversation. Does it not occur to Blatchford that young victims might have read that article and, irony of ironies, she’s the reason stories like this play out the way they do?
It wasn’t lost on me either how Rehtaeh’s mother Leah was condemned by Blatchford for taking to social media to get the story told yet when Ghomeshi did the very same thing it was only because the poor man was “desperate.” Not even the parents of sexual assault victims are safe from the “blame the perpetrator never” crowd.
To be clear, women remaining anonymous did not vilify Jian Ghomeshi. A system that repeatedly and openly condemns victims to a life of silence is why this story broke the way it did. It’s also why there will probably never be a complaint filed with the police by any of the women involved. Why would they bother? The system’s a joke.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May posted the often repeated inquiry, “So why no police charges?” and adds insult to injury with, “In past I know of allegations (unproven) destroying lives. I’d like to have a sense of fairness.”
Ah yes, we all want a sense of fairness. But lets be honest, what these women would have faced if they went to the police would have been a nightmare. They would have faced accusations instead of belief, torment instead of compassion, and an endless dialogue of excuses disguised as justice. I guarantee none of them would have felt a sense of fairness. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a victim who has.
If victims are going to get justice within Canada’s current system it’s obvious we have a long way to go. Until then it shouldn’t surprise us if they take another route. These women did the only thing they felt they could – they publically exposed someone who abused them.
I hope they find a sense of justice in knowing they sent out a warning to other women not to be alone with Ghomeshi and in that, they may have saved someone else a lot – possibly a lifetime’s worth – of pain and grief.
What they did took courage.
This story broke with four women. This morning as I write this the number is up to eight, including the very much loved ‘Trailer Park Boys’ actress Lucy DeCoutere.
How high does the number have to go before we’re able see the stinking rot through all the blinding smoke and roses? Why are we so willing to let this system stay the way it is? Why do words like ‘due process’ and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ sting so much?
Why aren’t we fixing this?