Dos and don’ts for testifying women: don’t
What the Jian Ghomeshi trial teaches us about how to be the perfect sexual assault complainant
CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi leaves a Toronto courthouse with his lawyer Marie Henein, right, following day six of his trial on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.
By: Heather Mallick Columnist, Published on Wed Feb 10 2016
Wanted: an immaculate complainant for the Ghomeshi trial, and all such future trials.
It is apparent that the three women saying Jian Ghomeshi bit, punched, slapped or choked them were all faulty to some degree. Oh these ladies and their vapours, telling tales to make a name for themselves while they continued with their nasty ways, as the defence would put it.
They were eviscerated. But in a world where police did only hasty interviews with the complainants and a sweet shy Crown attorney faced knife-ish lawyers hired by a rich man, it’s time for victims of sexual attack to raise their game. Why should the public sector do all the work?
And I’m a feminist, but may I say the ladies were frightened and weak, qualities famously much valued by the monstrous regiment. A frightened weak female is not useful to our cause.
So, all women in future sexual assault trials, stop being frightened and weak.
Big up. Don’t be slender like Lucy DeCoutere, be tall, big-boned and muscled to the point where you could silence a soft fattish man by sitting on him until his little limbs waggled the way turtles’ do when you flip them onto their shells. It’s a nice image, no?
Be born into a moneyed family so that you can hire lawyers to advise and prepare, to coat you like the fine glossy sports car you are and purr along close to the road/witness stand. Be an Eaton or a Frum. Bonus: afterwards you can be a Conservative senator.
Don’t drink alcohol. Try sparkling water or fruit juices, just as enjoyable.
Be sexually immaculate, and if that’s not workable be in a fortress-like marriage with children as evidence of having done the sex, purely for the evidentiary purpose of knowing what was done to you.
Call the cops on your cellphone as soon as your attacker is out of sight. Tell no one what happened, especially your female friends. Do not consult your doctor who may draw his own conclusions. Have no medical conditions beyond a dry cough or whatever happens to tendons.
Memorize all angles, colours, shapes, makes of cars and note how many seconds passed during your attack. Helpful hint: Say “one thousand one, one thousand two,” etc. as you are overpowered.
Never get the days confused, even from a decade before. Keep a paper day-timer and a detailed diary. Do not express your feelings in your diary as they could taint your testimony. Have no inappropriate uncontrolled emotions and do not express hatred of your attacker as it could be seen in retrospect as a motive to lie.
Don’t do what the attacker wants you to do. Do the opposite. If this fails, as it will, go back in time and do everything differently, an excellent strategy as it saves on pointless regret.
Don’t contact the perpetrator or talk to him at industry parties. In fact, leave the industry.
Be the woman your parents raised you to be, nice, apologetic, at fault. I didn’t know I could disagree with men until I read a novel when I was a tween where a woman said, on a train, “I disagree.” And look at me now. I’m disagreeable! Who wants that in a woman?
Do not make jokes, especially sexual jokes. There’s nothing funny about intercoursing.
Don’t wear a bikini or any kind of outdoor minimalist garment, and if you do, do not be photographed in it. Frankly, best be a never-nude like Dr. Tobias Funke in Arrested Development who wears cut-offs under his underwear at all times. Never knowingly be naked, even in the shower or at night. Nobody wants to see your Down Theres, especially you.
Do not be online. Do not be on Twitter or Facebook, as they keep records for the rest of your life, which will not be as short as you will come to wish it. Restrict yourself to phone conversations. Whisper in restaurants.
Be silent and numb, draw no attention to yourself, be like a headless armless Greek statue in an alcove in an ill-attended area of the museum.
On March 30, Ghomeshi’s lead defence lawyer Marie Henein will be the keynote speaker at a Young Women in Law charity event at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, sponsored by an all-female legal recruiter and four major Toronto law firms. Proceeds of the evening will pay for “work with war-affected communities to help children reclaim their childhood.”
The charity was founded by 10 young women lawyers and helps such lawyers consider career paths, of which “become the men we once detested” is one.
I trust the audience members will be immaculately behaved, unsullied and, above all, silent.
Please be aware, as I hope you are by now, that this is NOT my piece. I cut and paste it here because if I post a link, it will be 100% ignored, or perhaps glanced at. That's just the way it is with links: we see hundreds of them a day. Mostly it's skip, skip, skip. But I really wanted my readers - and I do have some, though not the masses that deem a blog "successful" - to read this, all the way through. Every word. Not just the first paragraph, then - skip, skip, skip.
Lately I've been Ghomeshied, and the same thing happened when all this ugliness first broke out like a disease. Then it went underground for a very long time while Ghomeshi's defense lawyer planned her military strategy.
Ghomeshi is a narcissistic thug. Even those who write off the women he attacked as "morons" and "dingbats" (including a very well-respected - OK, it was Michael Redhill, and I've included some of his comments below) have to grudgingly admit that he likely "did it".
When this all came out of the woodwork, there were vitriolic articles blaming the CBC for all this, for sucking up to Ghomeshi when they KNEW he was a son-of-a-bitch who casually hurt women. When they KNEW that he, with his smarmy, self-important style and preening body language, reeked of the worst kind of narcissism. The fact they sent him to live with his mother was telling: he's the kind of guy Mama fawned over, telling him he could do no wrong, that he was entitled to anything he wanted, up to and including destroying women's self-regard and even their credibility by pushing them into a corner where he held all the cards.
This also told us that at nearly age 50, Ghomeshi has no friends, no other relatives who are speaking to him, and has never had any sort of long-term relationship. No, he prefers to slap them around, punch them in the face, then discard them and go on to the next one.
I can't get into the why-does-she-go-back-to-him dynamic, but it should be well-known by now. Women repeatedly go back to abusive partners: it's the rare one who doesn't. This causes a great segment of society to abuse them all over again by calling them weaklings, ninnies and, yes, morons.
Heather Mallick nails it here, and says all the things I've been thinking but have been too stunned to say. Just do these few simple things and you will succeed! At what, we are still not sure.
It's hard to get through a day now and feel happy and OK about the state of things. There are people I cherish, and though I risk being labelled codependent for doing so, I live for them. Left to my own devices - no, I won't finish that, because if I'm too forthcoming I seem to lose readers.
Below is a selection of Michael Redhill's remarks. I could not include the entire Facebook conversation here because it was hundreds of words long, though I may be accused of that terrible crime of journalism, "editing". Including these comments is not an attack on him personally, but I present them here to demonstrate the kind of language and reasoning I have seen to describe both Ghomeshi and the women he damaged.
To his credit, Redhill seems to back away or even partially deny his initial insult and begins to apply the term "moron" to Lucy DeCoutere's lawyer (I very nearly called it her "defense team", though I cannot imagine why). In fact, there is a fair amount of backpedalling here, though "tear a strip off me" feels like recoiling from the unfair attacks of feminist harpies. At any rate, these are public comments from a high-profile writer, and I think I've presented them fairly. You can draw any conclusion you want from them.
The Ghomeshi trial is a joke now. Ex-Mayor Ford must be breathing a sigh of relief: there are now TWO gigantic morons at the heart of a story so tawdry it could only have happened in Toronto. One moron likes to hit women and pretends he doesn't know what consent is, and the other moron pursued him tirelessly, for years, after he beat *her*. Love letters. Who let her on the stand again? Lucy DeCoutere is going to change the subject of this trial and quite possibly torpedo any chance of justice the other accusers might be entitled to.
It's not just that he might get away with assaulting women it's that it will be the fault of this monumental dingbat.
I am NOT blaming this accuser. I'm pissed off that the people working with and for her were clearly not prepared for for Heinin's line of attack and have helped her reinforce the idea that she was somehow asking for it! What happened AFTER the alleged assault is not material in any way.
Much offense is given by my use of the word "moron," which has only served to obscure my point. My anger leads me to tar everyone with the same brush, which is intemperate of me. I would be corrected sooner in conversation while also making my point more clearly. To wit: Given what's at stake in this trial, why does the prosecution (and accuser) seem so woefully underprepared to combat the specious argument Ms. Henein has put forward with ease. Why was Ms. DeCoutere not counselled to respond that her contact w JG after the alleged incident has nothing to do with what he's accused of? She is not on trial, he is. And yet her legal representation has left her dangling. Before the trial, there was much talk about how the accusers could be dragged through the mud in this process. Did they fail to prepare? I think that's moronic.
I didn't compare her to Rob Ford. I said he can feel relief because he won't be what people are gossiping about when they talk about the latest circus in this city. And I stand by my comment that she's a dingbat and a moron to have been THIS unprepared in a case she brought for the sake of being the face of the accusers in this trial! She arrived in court unaware of what Heinin was going to make her look like? I don't agree with the case Henein is building! DeCoutere and her team have handed it to her and allowed the bugaboo "she was asking for it" to enter into the conversation.
You're right. Ghomeshi had star power and people turned a blind eye to his reputation for being a sleaze. You seem to be saying his victims did too. If this is the case, did his victims effectively give him a pass because of who he was? Did they stay in touch with him because his star power eclipsed his crimes? Or did they maintain a bond with him because victims of abuse often form seemingly illogical bonds with their abusers? Is it both? It strains credulity that it would be.
Ok, I'm ready to have another strip torn off me. I think we can all agree that we are discussing a court case that is in progress. The fact that (so far) witness one and Lucy Decoutere had contact with Ghomeshi after the crimes he is accused of is NOT proof that he committed the crimes. This kind of reasoning is called "petitio principii" -- also known as begging the question. You take the conclusion of the argument and make it the premise: These women kept in touch with Ghomeshi BECAUSE he assaulted them. But we are in a court of law. An accusation has been made. We cannot presume the guilt of the defendant based on what the accusers did after the alleged assaults any more than we can presume that their contact with him was expressly a result of the alleged assault. The court of public opinion has already made its ruling: Ghomeshi is a "predator" and "criminal". We have made our "ruling" because we have reasonably concluded that many women with similar stories of assault are highly unlikely to have worked together on a huge lie and a conspiracy. I personally dismiss it and conclude that they are telling the truth. I BELIEVE that Ghomeshi is guilty, but not because I have proof. I am one small part of the emotional throb of public opinion, but it does not entitle me to draw legal conclusions that are currently being tested in court. My opinion that the case is a disaster for the plaintiffs and the lawyers who are representing them remains unchanged and I think the extent of the disaster will become clearer as the case moves forward.
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