When the results of the Ghomeshi trial came in, I waited with bated breath. Like clockwork, my Dad was ready with his bullets. “These women just want attention and money. They always do this.”
It was the same thing he said when women began speaking up against Bill Cosby, when more and more women and stories were coming to light. It was the same thing he said when people chanted the phrase #FreeKesha, when she accused her producer at Sony of raping her.
He’s not the only one that has said these words either.
With every sexual assault case that comes to the attention of public media, there is a consistent shift of blame to the victims. Unfortunately, there is an automatic correlation between winning a trial and a victim being believed.
My friends no longer ask me why I never reported him when it happened, because they, like I, know that there would be no point.
The thing about memory is it's a finicky thing.
I no longer remember the details of the incident — just a few specifics and the overwhelming emotions.
I could tell you that it was prom night and that I had been with six friends.
I could tell you who took me up to bed when they knew I had had one too many drinks.
I could tell you that he came into my bed a few hours later and I was woken up by his lips pressed against mine.
I could tell you that I said no, not once, not twice, not three times, but more.
And I could tell you that it happened anyways. That at 8 a.m., he walked out of the room, zipped up his pants and told me I should probably put some clothes on.
I couldn’t however, tell you the details. I remember coming home from work that day, to my friend, and crying, and telling him everything in detail — every single vivid memory, broken up by tears. But now, three years later, I struggle to remember that conversation.
There are a few things that stick. There is the memory of being told that when my friend confronted him, he punched a glass window in anger, yelling, why would I even want to rape her.
As if I wasn’t worthy of his sexual desires — as if I wasn’t “good enough” for him to even want to assault.
If the outcome of the Ghomeshi trial has taught me one thing, it has taught me that to be a victim of sexual assault, you must remember the facts. You must remember all of the details, and you must be ready to admit every single encounter, and form of encounter, with your assailant.
In Justice William B. Horkins’ verdict, he identifies that after looking at the evidence brought forward by the complaints, there is reasonable doubt, which is enough to acquit Ghomeshi of all charges.
However, he also states, “It is difficult for me to believe that someone who was choked as part of a sexual assault, would consider kissing sessions with the assailant both before and after the assault not worth mentioning when reporting the matter to the police.”
Two months after my prom date (and best friend) raped me, I slept with him again.
Right now, I struggle to remember the details of how it even happened. Initially, I told him I never wanted him in my life again — he was my best friend, and he had taken advantage of me in a way that I would have never been able to fathom.
When he reached out to me the summer after, however, trying to fix the friendship that had been so brutally broken, I remember wanting to make it right again. I remember convincing myself that he had been my best friend for four years — we had a previous friendship that I would be giving up. In my head, maybe if I consented the second, or third time we slept together, then perhaps it made up for the first time that I never wanted.
According to the judge’s interpretation of the events, however, it would bring into question the fact that the first time I was raped — because how could someone who has been so violated still try and form a relationship with their abuser?
According to the judge, the fact that I was best friends with my rapist prior to the incident, the fact that I had admitted to having strong feelings for him prior to the incident and the fact that I still have a mixture of love and hatred for him, would make me an inconsistent witness and would call into question my reliability.
I do not know the stories of the complainants — I do not know anything beyond the facts revealed to the public in the case itself. I do, however, know my story — and the facts of the matter remain that previous or post sexual history with an individual, does not change the fact that consent is necessary every single time.
The fact remains that only 1-2 per cent of date-rapes — rape that involves some form of relationship with the assaulter — that happen in Canada are actually reported to the police.
Last year, my prom date sent me a message saying sorry for what he did. That “he knew it was wrong,” and “you don’t have to forgive me, because it was unforgivable.”
Two years after the incident, I finally was able to realize that even I doubted my own story — that just like the media tends to do, I sought out all of the complexities of our relationship, and all of the ways that I was an inconsistent victim. I searched for all of the ways in which I was at fault and until he finally admitted to his actions, I was always trying to justify his actions.
I’ve read the 25-page document on the judge’s decision. I have read through his condescension towards the complainants, but I have also read about all of the inconsistencies of all of the complainants, and as painful as it is to say, the inconsistencies and lies within the courtroom make a conviction hard. Like the judge concludes, it is important to remember that the fact that Ghomeshi cannot be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that the assaults did not occur.
As a woman on the other side of this case, I simply ask that every person who discusses the outcome of this trial begins to understand the complexities of sexual assault and that there should not be a correlation between winning a case and believing the victim.
I ask the public to understand that victims will rarely have perfect recollections of events, and that more often that not, there is a complicated relationship. I also ask the public to realize that in the case of a criminal trial, just because the law was on Ghomeshi’s side, does not mean that women shouldn’t speak out even if they’re not believed.
What matters is not what a judge says, what the media says or what the public debate is. Sexual assault is complex and it’s almost never black and white. While it may be hard for survivors to find justice because there will always be doubt from someone, it’s important to listen to these cases from a place of understanding rather than looking to pick apart someone’s story.
I know if I sat in that courtroom, I wouldn’t be able to stand up to the scrutiny — but that doesn’t make my story any less true.