All we really learned from today’s not guilty verdict on all four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking against Ghomeshi is that a prosecution team, working within a broken justice system, couldn’t convince what seems a less-than-sensitive judge.
Two questions emerge. On the micro level, how could the Crown have been so inept?
Of the many expectations and fears we had in the run-up to the trial, no one could have imagined how vulnerable Michael Callaghan would have left the complainants. They had already disclosed – in the mainstream media, for god’s sake – their attempts to reconnect with Ghomeshi after the assaults. Jane public knew all about it. Didn’t the prosecution team? Why did Ghomeshi’s lawyer Marie Henein have so much more information about these women’s actions than the Crown?
It’s the Crown’s job to educate the judge and he failed.
That the judge could confuse with “conspiracy” the fact that a perpetrator can do the same thing to many different women is ridiculous. That he should complain about how long it took Ghomeshi’s accusers to come forward speaks to the Crown’s failure to call witnesses who could give expert testimony to the shared experience of survivors of sexual assault.
There are scores of reasons why women don’t report – see #beenrapedneverreported. There are many more why victims don’t automatically make their attackers accountable, even return in order to make sense of what’s happened.
But none of that information was put before the judge. The legal justification for that, we’re told, is that a judge supposedly knows anyway.
In this case, he seemingly didn’t. The judge could have simply believed Ghomeshi’s accusers. At no time, did the defence say that the assaults never happened.
As this case makes obvious, even after the intense public discourse about sexual assault – no doubt, there’s been a huge surge of awareness – our legal system is not able to shift with it.
Time to mobilize: develop a team of legal experts to do the important work of training witnesses for court – and educate the people in power why it’s important to believe women. Just as women did 50 years ago when we put the issue of sexual assault before the public, named it and demanded action on it. It’s time for that kind mobilization again.
Do we have to do everything?
email@example.com | @susangcole