This case has taken the country by storm. Why? This is far from the first rape case in Canadian history. Perhaps the amount of media coverage in respect to this case has a role to play in the growing interest in this case or perhaps it is the involvement of a celebrity. Jian Ghomeshi, a former CBC radio broadcaster is currently the subject of multiple alleged rape cases.
Since the news of an alleged rape case had spread over media, three women have come forward to accuse Ghomeshi of raping them and have taken legal action. Two of these women are subjected to a publication ban while the third, Lucy DeCoutere, an actress, is not. Ghomeshi is known to partake in aggressive sexual practices including but not limited to: choking, punching and physically abusing his intimate partners. However, many individuals are unhappy with how the case has been unfolding.
Thus far, the public has heard what the victims have had to say about Ghomeshi while Ghomeshi did not fire back. However, Ghomeshi’s defence lawyer, Marie Henein, has much to say on the alleged sexual and physical assaults. Ms. Henein has spared no details while asking the victims of about their relationships and sexual encounters with Ghomeshi.
Ms. Henein went as far as to ask one of the victims if she was wearing hair extensions during intercourse. Why is this relevant? Ms. Henein argued that if Ghomeshi was truly pulling tightly and aggressively, the woman’s extensions would not have remained intact – which they did. Ms. Henein also asked the victims if they kept in touch with Ghomeshi after the alleged assaults, both women said they did not contact Ghomeshi after the fact. Ms. Henein then brought the courts attention to previous email exchanges that took place between the victims and Ghomeshi after the alleged attacks. In one case, the emails had pictures of the victim with Ghomeshi at a park.
Many individuals are outraged as they believe that Ghomeshi will be acquitted of all charges. Some feel the victims are being persecuted rather than Ghomeshi as it difficult to remember every detail about a relationship that far in the past. Some groups also believe that there are still judicial prejudices against victims of rape due to a victim-blaming attitude that persists in society. For instance, would it be reasonable to ask a victim of a shooting – why didn’t you just dodge the bullet? This line of questioning has been asked of victims in courts by judges including “why didn’t you just keep your knees together?”
The particular judge who asked “why didn’t you just keep your knees together?” was disciplined and can no longer serve on sexual assault cases but he will remain a judge. He also gave a formal apology the victim after the fact. Degrading and victim-blaming comments such as these often deter victims from coming forward. In fact, it is estimated that only 10% of sexual assaults are reported. Many sexual assaults occur between significant others or spouses and are often not reported for that reason. Many victims also maintain contact with their abuser due to the complexity of the relationship. Conversely, many individuals support the current justice system and believe that if the prosecutor cannot prove their case, then Ghomeshi should be presumed innocent. It is also argued that having victims testify about such details is not inhumane but rather morally correct and in fact needed to deter false accusations. Many argue that the judicial system in Canada far outweighs the progressiveness of other nations and it should be respected for its objectivity for the law.
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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about how the Canadian legal system addresses sexual assault cases?
2. How is sexual assault addressed in your country?
3. Do you feel victim-blaming is still prominent today?