As the Jian Ghomeshi trial comes to an end, spectators await a verdict. It seems everyone has an opinion about the potential outcome of the trial. Some feminists argue that the victims were targeted based on their sexual history rather than being supported for their brave decision to come forward. In contrast, others argue that the due process is necessary in the judicial realm. These two conflicting perspectives were given a voice through Twitter using #BelieveTheVictims and #DueProcess.
Supporters of this view argue that victims of sexual assault should be believed and supported by judges rather than cross-examined by the accused’s defense attorney. Individuals who share this perspective argue that rapists escape punitive repercussions due to a faulty judicial system. Furthermore, the judicial system questions the victim’s story, rather than accused’s actions. Since the burden of proof (having to prove your case before the judge) belongs to the victim rather than the accused, the victims must prove that non-consensual sexual activity took place. In criminal proceedings, the accused it assumed to be innocent until proven guilty; a stance supported by many.
In stark contrast to the current legal structure, some groups argue that victims of sexual assault should not be cross -examined as it can recreate trauma for the victims. Some even go as far to argue that the victim’s testimonies should be sufficient to commence a trial without preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings are held to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Many women have argued that cross-examinations can deter victims of sexual assault from coming forward; thus, the judicial system should do everything in their power to make the experience more bearable for the victims.
Proponents of this view argue that the judicial system is not only balanced but succeeding in protecting innocent individuals. Furthermore, it not only acceptable but necessary to ask victims to testify during the trial to avoid sending an innocent individual to jail. If the accused is falsely accused, the accused loses their reputation and possibly their career; therefore, after evaluating the costs, victims should be required to take the stand and be cross-examined.
Many men who object to rape have also support this perspective by arguing that persecuting accused individuals based on an accusation can potentially ruin an innocent person’s life. For instance, a twelve-year-old girl accused her teacher of raping her, only later to find out it was an act of revenge for being scolded by the teacher. That vengeful act lead to the accused to lose his career after losing his reputation. Although these cases are rare, supporters of this attitude argue that a lack of due process can make wrongful convictions regular occurrences.
What perspective do you support? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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Points of Discussion:
1. Should rape victims be cross -examined?
2. How do you think the Jian Ghomeshi case will unravel?
3. How is sexual assault legally addressed in your country? Is it similar to Canada?