A lot about the Ghomeshi trial has been troubling, but the judge's finding that two of the women accusing Ghomeshi colluded and lied to exact revenge has been most difficult for me
I couldn’t attend the Jian Ghomeshi trial. I was busy testifying in the courtroom one floor up in the trial of the man who sexually assaulted me.
A lot about the Ghomeshi trial has been troubling, but the judge’s finding that two of the women accusing Ghomeshi colluded and lied to exact revenge has been most difficult for me. Defence lawyer Marie Henein presented emails and Facebook messages between the women as evidence.
The legal system doesn’t afford much to women who bring charges, but don’t take away what we do have – that is, each other. Sexual assault is isolating and dehumanizing. The institutional responses to it can be, too. Sexual assault cases are processed and managed by the various actors of the legal system with their own agendas. It is indescribably lonely.
If you are indigenous, racialized, migrant, trans/gender variant or a sex worker, the shaming and risks are only increased.
Sometimes we’re provided with contact information for helplines. I was hopeful the first time I called, and I was assigned a wonderful volunteer whose response was caring and supportive. But subsequent calls went unanswered. It wasn’t worth it to me to risk being re-traumatized by a lukewarm response, so I stopped calling.
I was lucky enough to receive sexual assault counselling at Women’s College Hospital. I was on a waiting list for two months after my assault, and the number of sessions are limited.
Soon I was on my own again in a criminal process that will take well over a year to conclude. Who do I turn to for the rest of the hours of the week now that counselling has run out? Who do I text, email or telephone during the year(s) of waiting for the court proceedings to wrap up?
In a state of desperation, I reached out online. The friendships gained that way have been the only silver lining. We show up for one another in ways that counsellors and lawyers cannot.
We don’t sit around discussing the exact details of our assault. We don’t scheme to seek revenge upon our former lovers, professors, bosses or friends.
There is only the great comfort of speaking with others who have lived the same isolation. Few people in this world can relate to being the only witness called in their sexual assault trial. Or know how it feels to have your body become a piece of evidence. Statistically and anecdotally, we rarely experience any justice from the legal system.
But the fellowships sexually assaulted women form among ourselves, the support, research and analyses we provide, the strategies we develop to help change the system give us insight into finding new solutions to an under-reported crime that affects us all. You probably know someone who has been sexually assaulted, whether you realize it or not. After all, friendship is not a crime.
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