Jian Ghomeshi Acquitted. So What?

Photo Credit: flickr Canadian Film Centre

Today we heard that Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted of sexual assault.

I don't know where you fall on the spectrum of belief, disbelief, relief, or disgust. However, whatever you believe about this trial, there are many, many people who have been assaulted and what happened today cannot be a message to them- to us- that our voices, our experiences and our pain doesn't matter.

Until this moment almost nobody has known about me that I've been repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted. First, as a small child at the hands of neighbourhood teens; later as a teenager by someone I found out later had done it before; and finally again in my 20s. Although it no longer pains me to think about, or even to write, the spectacle around Jian Ghomeshi has certainly brought me pain. Not for me and my memories, but a searing pain accompanies the reality that few who commit rape, abuse, and assault will see any consequence or get the help they need to stop. That my daughters were born to this reality. That the power imbalance that ensures rape, abuse and assault can occur in the first place will be upheld at the highest levels without empathy, and without remorse.

Whether or not you believe in rape culture, see our judicial system's handling of sexual assault as problematic or feel something is going wrong here what we collectively cannot ignore is that the massive reaction to this case coupled with our unprecedented connectedness through social media has the power to at once do both great harm and create tremendous support.

A note on the harm...

As someone who works in social media I'll give you a bit of insight into my job: I'm always connected. I have to know what's current, what's trending. It's exhilarating, educational and sometimes exhausting. It also comes with an emotional cost, especially when you're absorbing a constant stream of tragedy, death, injustice and vitriol. That's just part of my job.

But we're all connected all the time. It's not just me. Granted I spend an inordinate amount of time online, but even the average person checks their phone 85 times a day. Imagine, as someone who's experienced assault, checking your phone 85 times a day to face, over and over and over again this case and all of the shitty commentary that comes with it.

Trolls or not, the way we talk about this matters. It has the potential to re-traumatize, shame, and take power away from people who have already had that taken away... and then some. As much as I have come to terms with my own experiences, throughout this case I found myself calling our local sexual assault support centre trying to find a source of strength to face this day after day.

What we say about this case sends a message way beyond it and to people who have faced a special kind of torture you will hopefully never know.

Which is why it's also amazing to see so many voices rising up to show support for not necessarily only the women in the Ghomeshi case, but any and all people who have been assaulted who are seeing these comments and struggling.

And to all of those people thank you.

To anyone who may be reading this who has also experienced any form of abuse, or assault- you are not alone and your experience matters.

A couple of other worthwhile reads:
9 Myths About Sexual Assault That Still Cast A Shadow Over Canada’s Courts
How politeness conditioning can lead to confusion about sexual assaults