sexual violence

Jian Ghomeshi: The Witnesses

jian.pngThe Jian Ghomeshi case seemed straightforward and simple when it began but Ghomeshi’s acquittal left most people shocked. What happened? If you are not familiar with the trial, please read my article “Jian Ghomeshi” first.

What was meant to be the foundation of the case, became the most damaging part of the case – the witness testimonies.

Three witnesses came forward alleging that Jian had assaulted them during intercourse. One victim shared her name while the other two remain anonymous under the publication ban. Each witness was critically analyzed on the stand and questioned about numerous details relating to the incident. This is how each witness held up, not in any particular order.

Witness 1 (Publication ban):

This victim told the police that she had not had contact with Ghomeshi after the attack; however, Jian’s defense lawyer then revealed an email sent by the victim to the accused after the alleged attack. The email included the victims phone number (for contact) and a picture of her in a string bikini.

In cross- examination, the victim stated that she did not recall sending the email but did remember drafting it. The victim also stated that she had sent Ghomeshi the email as a means to entice him to contact her so she could ask why he had assaulted her. The judge ruled that the witness was intentionally withholding information and was in breach of her obligation to tell the truth.

trial

Lucy being questioned by the defense attorney.

Witness 2:

Lucy DeCoutere guaranteed under oath that she had not maintained relations with Ghomeshi outside of a professional setting following the attack. Her statement was later refuted by the defense attorney who revealed a six-page love letter, an email stating that DeCoutere wanted to meet Ghomeshi again and pictures of the two cuddling in a park just days after the alleged attack. The email included language suggesting that she had enjoyed the sexual encounter with Ghomeshi. According to the judge, this revelation undermined DeCoutere’s argument of non-consent and portrayed her as less than truthful.

Witness 3 (Publication ban):

This witness stated like the others that she had been assaulted by Ghomeshi and had no contact with him after the fact. However, a day before the trial the victim came forward to admit that she had sexual relations with Ghomeshi after the attack. It is believed that she came forward with this information due to a news report stating that the defense had obtained email exchanges between the victims and Ghomeshi. After hearing the victims statement, the judge’s decision stated that he felt the victim would not come forward with the complete truth unless she was confronted with the evidence, making her testimony uncreditable.

awarenessWitnesses Speak- out:

When asked to defend their stances, the witnesses had much to say. One of the witnesses stated that she wasn’t sure what would come into discovery during the trial and hence was unprepared to determine what was relevant information to the case. The witness went on to state that some of the facts shared in court are irrelevant to the attack taking place. Another witness stated that she had expected the Crown to prepare her for court by asking her tough questions (similar to television dramas). In reality, the only onus for prosecutors is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that alleged offence did take place and put forth their best efforts to seek a conviction.  Witnesses stated that they felt vulnerable, humiliated and uncomfortable in court.

There is far more to this case and discussion, more posts will follow throughout the week.

Did this piece shed some light on the Ghomeshi case for you? If so, press “like” and subscribe!
Points of Discussion:

  1. What are your thoughts on the testimonies, the prosecution and defense?
  2. Do you believe the victims or Ghomeshi?
  3. Did this article highlight the complications of the case for you? Do you feel you understand the case a little better?
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Jian Ghomeshi

sexual assaultThis 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.

Trial

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.

Controversy

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyMany 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?

Tackling Sexual Assault

awarenessSexual assault impacts 1 in 3 women in Canada. Women under the age of 35 are 5 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than their counterparts. Sexual violence  impacts many aspects of a victim’s life and the Liberal government wants to address this concern with their new legislation. The legislation was proposed in late October and aims to assist victims in various circumstances including: their homes, schools, work and the justice system.

Arguably, the biggest change will occur in the legal realm. Courts will be asked to remove any limitation periods for civil proceedings founded on sexual assault or misconduct. Thus limitation periods to bring civil action would be removed. Furthermore, survivors of sexual and domestic violence will also be permitted to make applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board without time constraints.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyIn respect to work, employers will be liable to improve their sexual harassment prevention programs and conduct “appropriate investigations” of complaints. If a complainant feels the employer has failed to conduct an appropriate investigation they can take legal action against the employer.

Currently, the Occupational Health and Safety Act vaguely addresses sexual harassment as:

“Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”

The Liberal government aims to define sexual harassment in a manner that will outline consent and unacceptable behavior.

At this moment in time, most postsecondary institutions merely state that sexual violence will not be tolerated and will be handled in accordance to the Criminal Code of Canada. The proposed legislation  would require post-secondary institutions and private career colleges to create individual policies addressing sexual violence. The policies will be reviewed every three years with student input.

Finally, tenants will be permitted to exit a lease due to sexual or domestic violence in 28 days rather than the current 60 days limitation period. This will make it easier for victims to flee their abusers and escape financial abuse.

Activists are supporting the proposed legislation and suggesting it is long overdue while critics are concerned about the unaccounted for repercussions of such legislation.

Critics argue that allowing tenants to exit their rental leases in half the time due to sexual or domestic violence may discourage landlords from renting their spaces to women. Furthermore, some individuals are concerned that this will not tackle the pre-existing stigma against victims. Todd Minerson, executive director of the White Ribbon campaign, argued that the discussion around consent needs to continue as some men do not understand what consent entails. Hence, some feel that the proposed legislation is not enough.

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Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about the new proposed legislation?

2. What additions would you like to make to the new legislation?

Aboriginal Women Targeted By Police Officers

abVal d’Or is known for its longstanding history with aboriginal communities including the Algonquin and Cree tribes but not without conflict. Aboriginals have protested against how the police force treats their women for years and are now finally being heard.

Countless aboriginal women have stated that Sûreté du Québec officers have assaulted or punished women for being intoxicated by driving them out of town and abandoning them in the cold.  Police brutality towards aboriginal women was no surprise to many Quebecers but the presence of sexual abuse was shocking.

Many aboriginal women have stated that police officers would occasionally request the women to perform oral sex. Refusing to follow through would often result in agonizing repercussions. According to the women, the authorities were well aware of these complaints before they went public but chose to ignore them. Will this time be different?

Quebec’s public security minister stated that eight Sûreté du Québec officers were suspended due to 14 complaints of abuse of power and assault in a news conference. The officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty based on substantial evidence to support the claims made by the aboriginal women. Since the initial story was released additional aboriginal women have shared their own parallel accounts of sexual violence inflicted by the police force.

Retired judge Lawrence Poitras supports the concern expressed by aboriginal women when he stated “officers accused of abuse often retaliate with criminal charges against the accusers in order to cover their tracks.” – CBC article http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/val-dor-cameras-1.3290119

The Montreal police force is now responsible for overseeing the investigation. The aim is to prevent the SQ from overseeing the investigation and protecting its officers. Furthermore, Pierre Veilleux, the president of the Quebec provincial police union (APPQ), shared with CBC that the force is aiming to place cameras in cruisers beginning December to assess the severity of the situation.

Politicians are raising concerns about how prevalent this abuse of power might be in other parts of Quebec with aboriginal communities. Many politicians have also suggested the need for a provincial investigation to ensure that the protection of vulnerable members of the community.  Advocates have stated that a victim’s background including drug addictions and prostitution do not justify the abuse of power displayed by the officers.

Abuse of power results in a lack of trust in authorities and often results in rebellion; for example, many individuals are protesting against the abuse of power in the streets of Quebec. Furthermore, some aboriginals chose not to attend work as a form of protest.

If these allegations are proven true then one must question where aboriginals are to turn to seek justice if the authority that is supposed to provide them protection is exploiting them? Consequently, many officers are perturbed by the abuse of power and even angered by the lack of respect these officers displayed for their positions of power.

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