Big in the news here this week are the allegations that Jian Ghomeshi, host of a popular radio show on CBC is accused by eight women (originally it was four, but more have come forward, and I suspect, more will emerge as the days go by) of sexually assaulting them.
I think what bothers me most, aside from the obvious that women are being preyed upon and assaulted, is that once again, power is the thing.
Jian is obviously counting on his power as a CBC ‘celebrity’ to keep women quiet. It seems he preyed upon women who had dreams of being involved in Canadian media, and were frightened that an accusation against him would destroy their fledgling careers. And, apparently it’s worked in the past, as another woman who came forward, not naming him, was harassed online, incessantly. Add in that Jian is attempting to hide it all behind a, “I’m into BDSM, it’s a lifestyle choice.” defence. Basically, it was all consensual, it’s my word against theirs, and hey, I’m Jian!
And we wonder why sexual assault is so grossly underreported.
This situation shines a huge spotlight on the issue.
These women were afraid of retaliation. Better to let it go, they thought, than to deal with being harassed, mocked, humiliated, and lose any hope of a media based career. After all, he’s a ‘celebrity’ and I’m a Nobody. Who will believe me, over him?
And isn’t that the problem, summed up with a big ugly bow?
Victims of sexual assault are treated as liars until proven truthful. The only one that is innocent until proven guilty is the accused. The accusers are treated with suspicion, have to defend themselves. They’re questioned about having given consent. Do they have witnesses? Are they SURE they didn’t give consent? Unless it’s a case of assault by a stranger, they’re questioned as to the relationship. Are they just lashing out against someone who dumped them? The victim is put under a microscope. And, heaven help her (or him, I’m using ‘her’ because so far, it’s been women who have come forward with the accusations) if she doesn’t show up at the hospital, torn, battered and bruised, fresh from the assault. If she’s DARED to let time pass, to shower, to think about what has happened, to attempt to deal with it, to decide if she’s strong enough to go public with her accusation…well, then she’s viewed with both suspicion and scepticism. Assumed to be lying.
Gomeshi has managed this situation until recently. By both having power, and by planning. By claiming he’s into the BDSM lifestyle, he already cast doubt upon his accusers. For many, the BDSM lifestyle is labelled ‘freakish’, ‘perverted’ and ‘wrong’. By reframing his so called ‘relationships’ in that light, the women are already viewed with more doubt and in a poorer light than the average victim. He’s claiming consent for everything.
The reality of it is, it really doesn’t matter if the women DID consent to some things, or even everything…up until the point where they said no. Consent is not a blanket coverage, once given, cannot be taken back. Indeed, as someone I know pointed out, “If it were true BDSM, consent would never be in question.” as those in the lifestyle centre everything around consent.
As more women come forth, and more stories come out, it appears that consent was rarely given, if ever. Ghomeshi is simply using the claim of BDSM as a way of muddying the waters, to cast doubt upon those who come forward, and on his Facebook, claimed that the accusations are from a disgruntled ex-girlfriend.
I wonder what he claims now, with eight different women coming forward. All of them are disgruntled exes? Really?
The Court of Public Opinion, which Ghomeshi counted on being his biggest defender, has turned against him.
I truly hope that more and more women find the courage to speak out against those that assault them, that they step forward to see their abusers charged with criminal acts.