Note: I have become painfully aware of language for sexual assault survivors this week. There are some who loathe the word “victim” and insist they are survivors. I would like to agree with them, but for clarity and legal purposes, I’m using the word “victim” where it is most apt, and I apologize to those who take offense. I can’t sanitize everything for you, and I hope you understand why.
And So It Begins
As I write, a third accuser is on the record with the Ontario police investigation into Jian Ghomeshi. They are requesting anyone with any knowledge, social media engagement, or evidence of Ghomeshi’s attacks and behaviour to come forward. (Call 416-808-7474 if you know anything.)
Ever since the first came forward last night, Lucy and another woman staying nameless in the media, I’ve been jumping for joy. I’m so proud of these ladies for starting what I think will prove to be a massive case, the extent of which, and the scale, has never before been seen in Canada.
When the Going Gets Weird…
It’s been a weird week in my world. As a result of unwittingly going viral, I’ve been a lightning rod for so many conversations and contacts. I’ve been inundated with stories and private emails thanking me for changing the conversation from Poor Jian to “But he beats women.”
Despite their wonderful notes and letters, and the since-changing conversation, I still found myself butting heads with many misogynists, apologists, and staunch defenders who insist that a sex crime without charges is most certainly not a sex crime. (But I’ve also felt celebrated and supported by men who steadfastly believe his accusers.)
And then there are still the idiots who insist this whole thing is about BDSM, even though they have never participated in BDSM, don’t know anyone living in the lifestyle, and think that because they read an excerpt of 50 Shades of Grey, they’re knowledgeable enough to declare Ghomeshi got a raw deal from chicks enamored with his mega-watt star who later decided they didn’t like how they were treated.
Now, I don’t understand how to get through to people I feel are being flat-out ignorant about this. I don’t grasp where their morals come from, how they could possibly expect people to empathize with them in their times of trial in years to come. But worse, I find myself imagining just what kind of person they really are if they’re behaving this way online.
96% of Sex Crime Perpetrators Walk Free
I’ve ended years-old friendships this week, blocked people close and far, and I’d do it all again. On the flipside, it’s been thrilling to see some people about-face on their positions when they finally realized everything they were saying was effectively another assault on women who might very well be telling the truth.
After all, of 100 sexual assaults or rapes, only 3.3-4% end in convictions. On the 40% chance she reports it to authorities, there’s a 10% her case results in charges, for which her entire life will be investigated, on the 8% chance she can be ravaged by the defense, judged by others, made to feel like she “wanted it,” all while possibly damage her career, and for what? Nothing. Just to have a too-painful reminder that ultimately sexual assaults are the hardest crime to prove.
Before you start attacking those statistics, you might want to take your arguments up with the FBI, the National Policy Center, and the Department of Justice, since the numbers are theirs.
False Accusations Do Happen
One conversation I kept seeing was that of false accusers. “But what about all the guys falsely accused?”
So many people I know say that they know all these guys that have been falsely accused. But the statistics behind false reporting say that it tends to be about 10% of all rapes reported.
That percentage doesn’t jive with how many people I have had telling me their friends were falsely accused. I question if they know their friends as well as they think.
Let me be clear: I am absolutely certain false accusations exist and do not argue it is 10% of those accused. I am certain some of these false claims become a very serious problem for a wrongly-accused man. I will not argue that. I do not condone this behaviour, I think a false accusation is one of the most despicable acts a person could make, and I would never, ever think it was a justified means of resolving a dispute or exacting revenge.
That said, let’s talk about false accusations and the seemingly large number of men who claim they’ve faced them. But first I’ll tell you a story.
There Be Monsters
When I lived in the Yukon, from ‘94-95, a young man named James Ward lived in my townhouse complex. He killed his girlfriend, stuffed her corpse in his waterbed, refilled it, and literally slept on it.
I won’t get into the case because it’s nearly impossible to find evidence online anymore (aside from comments here), given it’s from 20 years ago, before the internet took hold up North, but it served as a huge lesson for me at the age of 21: We really don’t know anyone.
People don’t tend to consider the implications of how much we don’t know about those around us. For me, this was a darkly cynical message to learn early, but many learn it the hard way. There are bad people, and they come in all kinds. Some are in our homes, where we work, and in our neighbourhoods.
The problem most people on the internet seem to have is, they haven’t had a come-to-Jesus moment like mine, where their eyes have opened to the darkness that can loom inside of some people.
Just because someone’s smart and funny to hang out with doesn’t mean they don’t have another side. Just because they’re your friend doesn’t mean you know what they’re like after they’ve snorted cocaine and it’s 2am on a date with a girl they don’t care about, but really want to have sex with.
Consent Can’t Be a Debate. Ever.
All sexual assaults don’t end in bruises and violence. No means no, and if it’s intimidation or force or brutality that takes it to the next level, it’s sexual assault.
Consent cannot be muddy or unclear. It’s time we have this discussion over, and over, and over again, because my social media accounts tell me there are a lot of guys who still aren’t getting this. Girls too. Consent is a changing landscape, minute by minute. When the mood shifts and one of the two says “No,” then it needs to be over.
The law needs to state this with razor-sharp clarity. It is not impossible to stop a sex act once it has begun, if someone changes their mind and says no. We need to stop acting like consent is gold once given.
If the BDSM community and their sacred “safeword” rules can mean playtime is over despite hours of planning and preparing, then why can’t the vanilla sex world figure out the same?
The hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported went viral this week and it’s one of the most powerful moments to emerge from this. I’m sure more than a few men were stunned by how many women they know say they’ve been raped, and recoiled at the stories their friends and family were telling. (And kudos to the men who had the courage to tell their own stories about being raped, using this hashtag. Wow. Brave.)
We Can’t Solve What Isn’t Investigated
I’m pretty sure a majority of my male friends are good men, safe men, and kind men. Some I’d trust my life with. I believe they respect women to their core. These men of mine have been on the side of the accusers since Monday, or shortly thereafter. They’ve blocked misogynist friends of theirs. They’ve been incredible advocates for the accusers.
And yet rape culture is a reality. At least one in four women will suffer rape or sexual assault, and usually at the hands of a man she knows.
Only 4% of them will ever hear the word “Guilty.”
Our society still doesn’t value rape as a crime. Rape kits languish untested, in the thousands. It costs $1,500 to process a rape kit. That’s how little we value the safety of our women.
In the United States alone, just 10 years ago more than 221,000 rapekits remained untested, and the assailants remained on the streets. Five years ago in Detroit, some 11,300 kits were found never processed.
As the Economist wrote in July of this year, “Tens of thousands of untested kits have been discovered in police warehouses in America, including as many as 20,000 in Texas, 4,000 in Illinois and more than 12,000 in Memphis, where three survivors are now suing the city for mishandling evidence. In addition, crime labs are estimated to have a backlog of 100,000 rape kits. Such delays betray victims. Most rapists are never caught.”
And how many of those assailants are guilty for multiple attacks? I don’t even want to guess. How many could have been arrested with a simple kit processing? My stomach turns at the thought. Jezebel looked at one example.
Despite all these kits never being processed, accusers are scorned as having an ax to grind or an ulterior goal they’re after. The accused generally get defended by coworkers and everyone else as a “nice, charming guy.”
But men who successfully prey on women can be good-looking, nice, and charming too. Look at serial killer Ted Bundy.
This week, the country has learned what I learned two decades ago. We don’t know anyone, and terrible things happen even at the hands of people we see or hear daily.
Most people, when confronted with an accuser and an accused, will simply side with whomever their friend is. This is a big problem, and reached epidemic proportions here in Canada just last Sunday.
If there’s anything that we can learn this week, I hope it’s that we never, ever take anyone at their word without listening to both sides.
Maybe I appeared to do this with my now-infamous post on Monday, but I’ve been educated in both PR and journalism, and Ghomeshi’s take just didn’t add up under scrutiny. I never questioned my reaction when Jian Ghomeshi turned much of a nation against his accusers with his moving lie-filled missive. After all, lying can be persuasive, and he’s certainly considered a master manipulator.
For a couple days there, there may have been dozens, if not more, women across the country who felt like they’d just been kicked and beaten all over again, as legions of fans rushed to Ghomeshi’s side, swearing support and railing against these “petty, greedy women” they believed were launching smear campaigns against a beloved host.
Those women didn’t deserve that treatment at the hands of Ghomeshi, and they certainly didn’t deserve the fan-based attacks that followed after his exposure.
In the end, the tide turned. A nation began to say “I believe Lucy,” and an outpouring of support for those brave enough to tell tales followed and swelled.
Today we sit with bated breath as authorities investigate this. Ghomeshi is at large and authorities don’t know where he is. As yet, a search has not begun, charges have not been laid, and only three victims have come forward.
As I’ve been saying all along, the rumours of his behaviour go back years. Even celebrities like Jann Arden have said they’ve known of this behaviour for “years.” How it took so long for truth to out, we’ll never really understand.
For his accusers, though, what matters is that a man they see as a monster has finally been stopped. His stories are exposed, his behaviours are known, and his predilections are notorious the world over. Today, there’s one less serial monster in action, and if we’re lucky, we’ll see legal proceedings ensure the only rough sex he ever has again is of the prison variety.