November 4, 2014

Why the Jian Ghomeshi Case Could be a Blessing in Disguise.

Jian Ghomeshi


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On Sunday, October 27th 2014, CBC fired radio host Jian Ghomeshi for vague reasons. He then alleged via Facebook that the firing was due to his unorthodox sex life.

Late Sunday night four women came forward in a story in the Toronto Star with anonymous allegations of sexual assault and harassment against recently axed “Q” radio show host.

Jian Ghomeshi is currently suing CBC for $55 million, alleging that the CBC fired him because they couldn’t handle his perfectly healthy and consensual sex life.

However the four anonymous sources, that came forward Sunday in the Toronto Star, claim their experiences with Ghomeshi were not consensual.

I’m reading a lot of articles on Jian Ghomeshi, lots of people taking stabs at his Facebook posts, lots of details of what is legal in the bedroom consent, lots of did he, or didn’t he.

I’m sick of reading if legally one can “consent in advance” to aggressive sex, I am sick of hearing Jian claim that he is being punished unjustly for his “non vanilla” taste in the bedroom.

I am sick of hearing of hordes of people harassing the two women who have come forward—the internet retaliation and sabotage happening.

You know what I am more sick of hearing, though?

That six percent of sexual assaults in Canada are reported to the police.

When I began to write this article I felt angry. I was angry that women were anonymously making allegations and not standing in the light.

The more and more reading and research I do, the less angry and more sad I feel.

The anger is still there—but it is fuelled by those who exist in this world who try and withhold and silence the voices of victims of sexual harassment.

I am sad that we live in fear of speaking our truth and that other people take the time to fuel that fear.

I am sad that online harassment can go so far that in speaking our truth publicly, it can result in hearing a noise in the house at night and being afraid someone is breaking in to cause bodily harm.

I am sad that last year, 397,000 people took the time to watch a video calling Carla Ciccone a “scum bag of the Internet” in response to an article she wrote for XOJane, after having a bad date, which eluded to of been with Ghomeshi.

I cried, reading Daria Salamons story in The Globe and Mail today.

Reading of how the accusers of Jian, anonymous or openly speaking out about their allegations created a space for her to share her own story, two decades later.

In Elizabeth Renzettis powerful article in the Globe and Mail entitled “Why women who are sexually assaulted remain silent,” I read the story of a fifteen year old girl, Mandeep who at fifteen was assaulted by her 35-year-old neighbor. She was able to overstep her fear and shame and tell her parents and the police. The police called her a liar. The village chief told the family to keep quiet. Mandeep poured kerosene over herself and set herself on fire—dying a few days later.

For those of you who reply to this with, “Well, that’s in India…”

I challenge you to collectively give a shit about all human beings on this planet.

Not just the ones who live within our imaginary lines and boundaries we call countries.

In Rachel Browne’s article in Mclean’s Magazine, Charlene Senn, a women’s studies professor at the University of Windsor states nearly one in five women will be sexually assaulted as students. Yet Canadian universities are not required to make public or even keep track of sexual assaults reported to them.

Only 31 years ago did Canada change legislation so that spousal sexual assault is an offence. We aren’t exactly streamlining globally as leaders in supporting sexual assault victims, either.

I am sad to live in a world where one can muster up the strength to open up about rape or sexual assault and that another human being can have the nerve to say, “I don’t believe you.”

According to sexual assault.ca, in Canada only two to four percent of sexual assaults reported are false reports. Taking a stick to such fragile, courageous vulnerability is the worst thing we can do as a population.

It tears my heart wide open and as much as I feel sadness I also feel a humming, quiet rage.

To the hundreds of thousands of people who are brainlessly harassing these women who are coming out, so bravely—hear me roar: I am angry, with you.

Know when you send an abusive message harassing someone online that there is someone else on the other side of that screen with a red beating heart.

Regardless of whether the allegations against Jian are true or not, I do not applaud whatever miscued sense of “loyalty” you feel your actions are serving.

To the women who have came out publicly, Lucy DeCoutere and Reva Seth and the other seven who have come out anonymously—I just want you to know I’ve got your back.

I think that whether you speak your truth in the dark, or in the light—that you are so freakin’ brave.

I also think that a message delivered from in the light, has a different kind of weight.

As an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment my writing voices first instinct was in a passionate blur to demand all the women who have made allegations against Jian Ghomeshi to come forward, speak up, identify themselves fully—be a leader.

I then planned to stand in the front lines, baring my teeth at the world, taking a bat to anyone who dared questioning them speaking their truth, while they felt supported, loved and free to speak.

But I faltered.

I have not been raped, I have “only” been sexually assaulted.

I have a belief that knowledge comes from a second hand story, and wisdom comes directly from experience.

I have not experienced extreme trauma, PTSD and believe regardless of my beliefs and ideals, we all have a right to choose how we deal with debilitating events.

I also believe we do always have a choice.

We have a choice when experiencing something of great trauma to face it or shove our heads in the sand, drink it, sleep it, medicate it, Netflix it away.

I think six percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police because 94 percent of victims are choosing to avoid revisiting traumatic events.

Police reports, questions, talking about it over and over—reliving the experience they so badly want to forget.

I understand why hiding from it is easier.

Here’s the thing.

I still want us to choose differently. I want us to choose the light, the whole light.

Just as we have accountability as human beings to take care of one another, we also have an accountability to hold those who don’t take care of one another liable.

Those who harm—have to be held on the hook.

Right now, all I see is Jian Ghomeshis ass half on the hook.

I think that silence as a choice when a victim of sexual assault is not only a disservice to ourselves, but also to the world.

That we sometimes have to be uncomfortable for a little while.

Holding people accountable is uncomfortable in all contexts, outside of this.

We could all be a little more uncomfortable, have more conversations that are difficult and necessary.

This conversation is necessary.

All conversations on social injustice, and human rights are necessary.

It is necessary, because in not speaking about it, and in passivity, you are unconsciously paving a path for our younger generations to follow in your footsteps.

How we are doing it now, isn’t working.

A 2013 Statistic Canada report that relied on police reported data found that women reported 460,000 incidents of sexual assault to social service providers in 2009, but less then 10 percent where reported to the police.

A co-worker of mine once confided in me that she had been aggressively assaulted in bed with a man.

She had a black eye and bruises, but refused despite my greatest efforts to go to the cops.

She said she “asked for it” because she had flirted with him, and she had said yes to going home with him.

When she got to his house she realized he was high on drugs and wanted to leave. He withheld her, he physically forced himself upon her, hit her in the face with his penis.

But she felt because at some point in the night she said “yes” that all the other “nos” just didn’t count.

She had friends who told her that because she flirted with him and went home with him, that she “deserved it.”

Can we just clarify something, please, if you say no, at any moment, even after going home with someone, you are allowed to leave—you don’t ever deserve to be sexually assaulted. You don’t ever “ask for it” either.

When I hear people using “ask for it” and “sexual assault” in the same sentence it evokes a growl from the bottom pits of my belly.

I sat exasperated with my friend after hours of trying to convince her to report this slime ball, who managed a bar and was constantly around drunk women, throwing themselves at him because of his appeal due to his position of power.

She chose silence. She chose to keep the reported assaults at 6%.

So when I read the paper, listen to the news, the radio and hear more and more voices coming part of the conversation on not only Jian Ghomeshi but all sexual assault cases—I think of this said man, who still manages a bar and is around booze and young women daily.

I think the fact a national radio sensation is being charged with allegations of sexual assault is a blessing, in a way.

It’s a blessing because everybody is watching, everybody is listening.

Sexual harassment has a spotlight on in our world, it has created a space for us to talk.

Of the nine women who have stepped forward now, with their sexual harassment allegations to “Q” shows CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, seven are unnamed.

These seven anonymous women still have the opportunity to become leaders.

I am writing this to challenge those who are currently here, or have been here, or may be here in the future to choose differently than that 94%,

For in my heart, and my ideal world, we all would wake up each morning supported, empowered, knowing our worth and speaking our truth.

So when grabbed on a subway, when leered at suggestively by a co-worker we instinctively roar back, in all our power–grab the offender by the balls/she balls and take them down with our ability to exist, speak and breathe accountability.

I say she balls—because men are also raped.

Men are also sexually assaulted.

Men are also victims.

A 1997 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 91 percent of rape victims are female and 9 percent are male. However, when prison rapes are included in the statistics it has been reported that, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “…more men are raped in the U.S. than women…In 2008, it was estimated 216,000 inmates were sexually assaulted while serving time… compared to 90,479 rape cases outside of prison.” (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I am writing to speak to the seven who are unnamed—the ones who are brave enough to speak form the dark—and say that I understand that social media adds another layer of public eye, on top of the court room, newspapers, radio and television.

I know that you are likely not just afraid, but utterly terrified.

I am so sorry you live in a world where you feel terrified to speak.

I want to sit here and tell you that if your boss let’s you go out of fear of tarnishing a company name, they’re a jackass—find an employer who appreciates and supports you.

Why work for someone who won’t stand behind you defending your basic human rights on this planet?

I want to tell you that if your co-workers whisper their two cents, that there is a brilliant quote by Paul Coelho that says, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

I want to tell you that if your friends or family alienate you when coming into the light, that you can find better company to surround yourself with. That if your partner doesn’t stand behind you, that they have this thing called divorce in Canada, and that it makes a lot of people very happy.

But the truth is—I don’t understand.

From where I sit, that is all easy to say.

You could have three children to support, making coming out and the possibility of loosing a job that supports your family feel unnecessary and selfish.

I cannot understand your process and experience, for it is not my own.

What I do know is that we need women and humans who are strong enough to stand in the light, hold their assaulters accountable and bring some justice to this earth—some change.

We can’t do that standing in the dark.

I am writing this article to say that I want, globally, victims of sexual assault to feel supported enough to be in the light.

I am also writing to gently say, that even if you aren’t supported enough—do it anyway.

A message delivered from the light has a different kind of weight.

A weight that holds offenders accountable, all the way accountable.

Six percent of sexual of sexual assaults in Canada are reported to the police. Six percent.

The Jian Ghomeshi’s horse has been beat, and I’m beating that horse one more time for good measure because I think it has brilliantly created a conversation I want to be having.

With a one in three chance of being sexually assaulted as a woman, I want my daughter to grow up knowing she lives in a world where she is supported enough to stand in the light.

I want to live in a world where we don’t need strength in numbers to come out and speak our truth.

In the world I want to live in, the only person who needs to be worried about their appearance and reputation being tarnished in a sexual assault case, is the offender.

A world where we don’t hesitate to claim back our power and space in this world.

I am writing to encourage, empower and implore more victims of sexual assault to identify themselves and be a leader.

To be an example by standing in your power, your whole power.

To not be shy in delivering your truths to our world—it can take it.

Thank you Jian Ghomeshi—not for your alleged actions, but in creating space for a much needed dialogue and global spotlight on sexual assault.

And to the anonymous and identified women who have made allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, Thank you—you are acting as teachers, in many ways for our world—and it is not an easy message to be a vessel for.



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Author: Janne Robinson

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Brenda Lee at Flickr 


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