So. This happened.
It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it to happen. Given the overall ineptitude of the Crown’s prosecution, and the ugly predilections of the judge as revealed in a previous (and very similar) case, it was pretty easy to predict.
And, given the overall tendencies of a male-dominated society and its rape culture, it was inevitable. It would have taken a miracle to make it otherwise. Pink pegacorns with purple manes and tails would have to have descended from the heavens, farting rainbow marshmallows all the way, before this verdict would have gone the way it should in a just world.
We don’t live in a just world, which is presumably why we have a justice system in the first place. And, thanks to our justice system, we’re still as far away from a just world as we would have been if we’d never had a system to begin with — at least, if by “we”, one means women who’ve been sexually assaulted.
Of course, if you’re a man who’s been accused, it doesn’t matter how far from true justice the world is — you’re golden whether your victim has gone to the cops about you, or not. And if you’re a man of some fame, with gobs of money, as Jian Ghomeshi is, you can buy your own version of “justice” (note the quotes, there for a reason). It doesn’t even matter if the court of public opinion turned against you fast and hard, as it did with him; you can still point to this verdict and say to every woman you’ve ever wronged, and known you wronged: “Yeah? Well, FUCK YOU.”
And oh yeah: you can go to your old employer, in this case the CBC, and sue for wrongful-dismissal damages, if not outright reinstatement. Never mind that you stupidly showed them a video of a woman’s bruised side and cracked rib in order to prove it was somehow “consensual”, which is what got Ghomeshi shit-canned in the first place. She wasn’t among these complainants; that video wasn’t entered into evidence here; too bad for her! Since Jian Ghomeshi was, before this, the star in CBC Radio’s firmament, they’ve been hurting for listeners (and those sweet, sweet syndication profits that Q brought in). It’s not at all certain that they won’t take him back — or pay up. After all, it’s only us taxpayers who’ll be stuck with the bill…
If there is any hope here, it lies with the women. They have shown that even with a deck blatantly stacked against them, they will not take their rough shuffle without a fight. They have already changed the way our society talks about sexual assault, even if the way we prosecute it hasn’t caught up yet. And we have a LOT of catching up to do. We’re learning things about traumatic amnesia, how it tends to wipe memories at the critical moment, and that’s often why victims don’t act the way the system expects them to. We’re learning why it should be mandatory for the Crown to call expert witnesses when that’s the case, no matter how much time it takes or what it costs. We’re learning that no accused, no matter how rich and well-connected, should have the right to a discriminatory legal defence. We’re learning that just because a woman fights back, or even flirts back after the fact, she’s still not any less a victim of an assault; we have Lucy DeCoutere and her co-complainants to thank for that. We are learning to believe them even when the judges insist that they’re not plausible enough by rape culture’s absurdly narrow and exacting standards of proper victim conduct. They have encouraged others to come forward against their abusers, even when the odds of winning a conviction are shit. That much is worth something.
It’s also worth something to know that now Jian Ghomeshi’s “good” name is not all that, and never will be again. “Not guilty” is not exactly innocent, either. His reputation as a shitty date is going to follow him everywhere, and his put-on charisma won’t ever erase the creepy image of Big Ears Teddy from the public mind. Any woman who dates him now has an excellent idea of what she’s really getting. Prospective future employers will also want to think twice before they put him on their payroll, seeing as he’s earned a reputation as being a sexual harasser on the job. A quick google is all it will take anyone to know that this one’s not worth whatever they may have in mind for him. He can hire all the image consultants he wants, but his name is mud, and that’s on him. That, too, is worth something.
It’s also worth something to know that this is not the only trial he’ll be facing. There are other, unrelated charges still to come. He could also face civil suits. It will all keep his name out there, unrehabilitated, for the awful, unjust world to see a while longer. It’s a small something, but what the hell.
It ought to humble every one of our learned judges to know that the court of public opinion is able to render a more solid verdict than they are. It probably won’t, because they can still insist on the letter of the law, like Inspector Javert. They can still claim to be serving justice, but until they learn to serve that dish piping hot and with all the trimmings, they won’t have to wonder anymore why so few women are stepping up to the plate. There are so many women who don’t expect justice from the system because they — WE — know full well it was built by men, for the benefit of men.
And until that changes, this is what you’ll be hearing out of those of us who know we’ve been assaulted, and who still don’t dare go to the law for redress:
It’s not justice. It’s not much. But it will have to do.