10 Things I’ve Learned from the Ghomeshi Trial

While some of you may feel the Jian Ghomeshi verdict is sooooo last week (literally and figuratively), it’s taken me a couple of days to let everything sink in.

First there was the frustration with the verdict.

Second there was the need to understand how that verdict came to be. Let me tell you folks, it’s a lost day when you don’t learn something new. And in that spirit, I present to you:


If I ever find myself in the terrifying position of testifying in my own Sexual Assault case, there are some key points I will need to remember if I want a successful outcome from the legal process and the Court of Public Opinion.

  1. “Justice” System is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Let’s go with “The Courts”. Our laws make it rather daunting for victims of Sexual Assault to come forward.
  2. Although more women have come forward to report their own sexual assaults following the exposure of this case, critics say it will take many more women to report sexual assault before the standards change. THAT’S encouraging. Can we get some more outrage brewing out here ladies?
  3. I have to depict myself as being sexually worldly, but not a “freak”, and certainly not a puritan. I will have to be comfortable talking about sex, but I better not make other people uncomfortable when I do it. (Note to self – look up definition of “Slut Shaming”.)
  4. I can’t show that I own or enjoy my own sexuality. Remember, it’s up to other people to objectify women, but we cannot be seen as using our bodies for that very same outcome. (Note to self – make sure to delete all photos where I’m wearing a bathing suit. Both of them.)
  5. I cannot allow myself to contact the accused following the alleged incident. After all, no one would reach out to this person again, right? I’m not entitled to demand clarification? Explanation? Frustration? I will have to hope I’m never in the same line of work, social circle, family, etc.  so I don’t have to interact with him. ‘Cause I’m not supposed to.
  6. I need to become an expert on automobiles. No one likes to be called a liar because they cannot remember the type of car the accused drove at the time of the incident.
  7. Same goes for houses, geography, cuisine, fashion, public transit. Basically EVERYTHING. If you can’t answer with authority, you must be fabricating.
  8. Don’t look like a know it all. You will look rehearsed and convey that you are trapping the accused. Yes, I realize this conflicts with #7 – deal with it.
  9. Never forget anything I have told others about this incident. This includes, but is not limited to: police, family, friends, colleagues, other victims. Again, basically EVERYONE. Additionally – make sure I commit all social media and electronic communications to memory so that it doesn’t look like misleading police or the courts. I will have to have the world’s greatest recall, without looking like I was deliberately creating the evidence and framing the accused.
  10. Understand that even though one of the hardest things I will ever do is to come forward to police to discuss one of the most intimate, and therefore traumatizing events of my life, that I will be dissected, insulted, maligned, vilified, labeled, scrutinized, criticized, objectified and ostracized. And the alleged attacker with never have to utter a word to defend his actions.

“Innocent until proven guilty.” Who? Of what?

6 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned from the Ghomeshi Trial

  1. Sarah, thank you for expressing so well what I am feeling about this trial and verdict.I saw Peter Mansbridge’s interview with the lawyer on the National last night and was disgusted with the way she portrayed how punishing going to court was for her client. Susie once was a crown witness in an assault case and she was hung out to dry with no preparation by the prosecutor   It was then that I realized that while we have a legal system we do not have a justice system. See you Saturday!! xxjudy

  2. “Innocent until proven guilty” is one of the touchstones of a just society. It should not be tampered with in a cavalier fashion. It is terrible that many people who suffer from sexual abuse do not obtain justice but we don’t improve their lot by accusing the wrong people. Indeed, the very rare times there are false accusations (like these) the chances of victims of sexual abuse to obtain justice are further reduced. There is an ongoing fight to get justice for the victims of abuse; high-profile stunts like these set teh fight back and mean the poor, unknown and weak are less likely to be believed when they seek redress after their assaults.

    • Firstly, thank you for your comment. While I do not share you opinion of “false accusations” as noted above, I do believe that if I’m going to throw my opinion around in a public forum, I should be able to handle contrary viewpoints. Especially when they are presented in a civil manner. I thank you for that.
      I do feel that this case has grossly magnified the flaws in our legal system. As you will note – I indicated that the issues I take with this entire scenario is not simply the issues legally, but also with the court of public opinion and how people view victims of sexual assault/abuse. It is common knowledge that the issues surrounding Ghomeshi are not limited to these three women, but could be in the dozens, to the extent that some university programs refused to send interns to Q because of the problems and feedback of previous female students. So in short, while the crown was not able to prove their case with the information they had on these particular allegation, suffice it to say just because there was a “Not Guilty” verdict, does not mean the individual is innocent, or that the victims were any less violated. Until we change the issues/perception/bias about these crimes, there won’t be MORE accused individuals being falsely accused, just more victims keeping silent.
      Thank you for reading, and sharing your thoughts.

      • Thank you for your reply. I can share your concerns and worries that many victims of sexual abuse are intimidated by the justice system. Unfortunately often intimidated so much as not to come forward to seek redress and justice. I can share your worries that this trial might make this problem greater (though I’d have to disagree as to what actors have played the greatest part in creating this damage).

        If this has been a miscarriage of justice then hopefully more evidence will emerge and he will be rightly convicted of any crime he has committed. You seem to be aware of information to which I am not privy (I am not Canadian) and if this is right then, surely, this will not be the end of the matter. Indeed, if later a conviction did occur it might given even greater impetus to examine what complainants say differently.

        But in our present society we are innocent until a court of law finds us guilty. There is no middle step, there is no “not guilty but probably did it” verdict (Except in Scotland where a “Not proven” verdict has this effect in part). So he remains innocent as before.

        The court of “public opinion” is a very different matter and this plays by a completely different and capricious set of rules. This is the court that can take against a defendant because of their sex, race, or even appearance. It is the court that gives rise to witch-hunts and lynchings. It is precisely because of these risks that we maintain that we should ‘all be equal in the sight of the law’ and that we should avoid extra-judicial sentencing and punishment.

        Anyway, thank you for an interesting article which has certainly given me food for thought and made me reconsider aspects of this trial. I hope that youwill feel free to ignore this elderly libertarian with his worries about human rights, we all have bees in our bonnets and “innocence and guilt” is mine.

      • Are you kidding?! I appreciate a rational, well thought-out opinion. Not sure where you are reading from, but I’m glad this convo took place. I should also add, that there is nothing more contemptible than falsely accusing someone of a crime, particularly one as serious as this. Sadly, in this day and age, The Court of Public Opinion seems to hold as much weight as the legal one!
        “Elderly Libertarian” my eye. You can weigh in any time!

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