This won’t be popular, but there are some reasons behind it.
Jian Ghomeshi, the former celebrity CBC host, was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, based on allegations of three women, all of whom testified at Ghomeshi’s trial, and four events. The assaults allegedly took place at the end of 2002 toward the summer of 2003. Point number one: there was no binding – no DNA and no witnesses. There were three women willing to tell their stories. There was a man – Jian – who said the stories didn’t happen the way the women remembered. And there was a judge, tasked with determining if the women’s stories proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that Jian Ghomeshi committed the five criminal acts the women said he had.
Any judge in a case of an historical sexual assault case takes into consideration that memory is not perfect, that 13 years after an incident, the details of the incident may not be recalled perfectly. So a judge in an historical sexual assault case must look to other indicators to help him or her determine the result. It is not up to the judge to determine truth; it is up to the judge to determine if the accused is guilty, beyond reasonable doubt.
There were inconsistencies in the women’s testimonies, there were details omitted that called into question evidence the women presented, the women only came forward after a public dismissal of Ghomeshi from his job at the CBC, there was lack of disclosure of communication between the women and Ghomeshi, and there was communication presented only when asked under cross-examination. A judge tasked with determining the credibility of the witnesses had little option but to rule that the complainants couldn’t be completely trusted. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have rough sex with Jian Ghomeshi. That isn’t what the judge had to determine.
The judge didn’t have other evidence, so he had to acquit Ghomeshi.
What would have been better? Justice William B. Horkins finding Ghomeshi guilty based on a personal dislike of the alleged behaviour? Justice William B. Horkins finding Ghomeshi guilty based on public testimony of witnesses that left reasonable doubt?
Anyone can be accused of a crime. If you’re accused of a crime, and the only people saying you did it are people who keep some of the truth out the story, would you want a judge like Horkins? Or would you want a judge like those of us who, today, are saying the judge messed up.
And one other note: What I am saying does not negate that I hold firm that “all victims should be believed.” Victims of sexual or domestic abuse reach deeply to find courage to tell their truths. I believe these women. Frankly, I believe this type of situation occurs far more frequently than we know. And I also believe that women who engage with men who prefer rough sex can sometimes find themselves unwittingly wound into the relationship. I expect that’s what happened in this case, and that the women chose to leave out that part of their stories because they were afraid it would look as if they’d happily engaged with Ghomeshi in the behaviours. Actually, hiding it destroyed their credibility.
Hindsight is 20-20. But I for one will not believe a woman who has an abuse story any less because of this trial. So, in my mind, we can stop the social media battalion of “We believe them.” It has nothing to do with this trial. It has to do with the burden of proof in a justice system that, this time, worked.