If accusers kept in touch with Ghomeshi, does it matter?

As the sexual assault trial of former radio host Jian Ghomeshi has unfolded, much of the focus has been on how his accusers' behaved after the alleged incidents -- how they still were in contact with the man they accuse of assaulting them, even seeking further sexual encounters.

See Full Article

Advocates for sexual assault victims have wondered why the after-the-fact behaviour of the accusers is relevant to this case at all, and point out that women can sometimes react to traumatic events in ways that might confuse onlookers. One of the accusers herself, Lucy DeCoutere, even opined that the women's behaviour shouldn't be on trial; only Ghomeshi's alleged actions should be.

But at least one legal expert says there is good reason the defence is so interested in what these women said and did after the alleged incidents, and it all comes down to reliability.

Lenore Lukasik-Foss, the director of SACHA, the sexual assault centre of Hamilton and chair of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, says she has been frustrated that so much of the trial has hinged on the complainants themselves, rather than on whether the assaults occurred.

She says that, after years of working with both domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors, she knows that victims often react in seemingly confusing ways after being hurt by the people they thought they could trust.

She says she was struck by DeCoutere's testimony that she continued weekend plans with Ghomeshi after the alleged incidents in an effort to "normalize" her experience. That kind of reaction is not uncommon, Lukasik-Foss said.

"When someone is charming to them and engaging and friendly – because women are most commonly assaulted by someone known to them, someone they consider a friend, partner, whatever -- it's really hard for them to wrap their heads around the fact that they hurt you that way," she said.

Even though our culture seems to expect a sensible, clear-headed response after such incidents, there is no one "right" way to react after you've experienced assault, she said.

"Can we stop buying into the notion that people should react a certain way, and if you don't, it means you haven't experienced sexual assault?" she said.

Lukasik-Foss fears this trial might dissuade other women from going to police if they fear that all their other actions are going to be called into question.

"I am concerned about the level of scrutiny for survivors' behaviour and what this does to survivors watching this trial," she said. "I'm deeply, deeply concerned by that."

Toronto criminal lawyer and CTV legal analyst Boris Bytensky agrees there is no one way a sexual assault victim "should" behave, or has to behave in order to be believed.

But he doesn't believe that is what Ghomeshi's defence team is saying either. Instead, he says they are more concerned with the reliability of the women's testimony and the fact that some of them failed to mention flirtatious notes and emails they sent later -- even after they testified that they had ended all correspondence .

"The issue isn't so much that these women had further sex contact with Ghomeshi; the real significance is that they initially denied doing so," he said.

"It's not the further contact itself that's the problem, it's the fact that they lied about whether it occurred and have given, at best inconsistent versions and difficult-to-accept explanations for their inconsistencies."

Bytensky said the defence is focused on the women's behaviour for the sole reason that they are trying to raise doubts about their testimony.

"It's not to expose them as somehow 'loose' women who can't be believed. It's nothing like that at all. It would be very improper for all sorts of reasons to suggest that," Bytensky said.

"It's that they are women who have simply not been able to tell the truth. They have been either manipulative or deceitful with either the court or police… That's the defence's position."

Bytensky expects that all of this will be made more clear when the defence presents its closing arguments. He expects they will argue that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged assaults happened at all.

"I don't think they're going to say 'Don't believe the complainants because look at the way they acted later.' It's going to be a lot more of: ''Don't believe the complainants because they told many different stories about the same alleged event and they specifically denied things that they later went back and said, 'Ok, well that did happen'."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Feds investing nearly $200M in Mississauga, Ont. plant to mass produce vaccines

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal government will invest almost $200 million in Mississauga, Ont.-based Resilience Biotechnologies to eventually be able to mass produce vaccines domestically. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Tuesday, stating that the money will go toward creating and maintaining 500 jobs and 50 co-op positions for young people “to get their foot in the door in a growing sector. Source
  • 'Sheerness when wet': Joe Fresh recalls boys, toddler swim shorts out of 'abundance of caution'

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Loblaws' Joe Fresh clothing brand is voluntarily recalling swim shorts for boys and toddlers over concerns about the sheerness of the trunks’ fabric when wet. Joe Fresh said in a recall notice posted online that there are no safety concerns with the products. Source
  • Ikea recalls select dishes due to risk of breakage and burns

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ikea Canada has issued a recall for select dishes after the company received reports of some of these products breaking, leading to a possible burn risk. In a notice issued on Tuesday, Ikea Canada said it was recalling the Heroisk and Talrika style plates, bowls, and mugs "due to the potential risk of burns from hot contents upon breakage. Source
  • Container ship is the largest of its kind to visit Canada: Halifax Port Authority

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Port officials in Halifax say the largest container ship to visit a Canadian port has arrived at the city's south-end container terminal. A spokesman for the Port of Halifax says the CMA CGM Marco Polo is 396 metres long and can carry the equivalent of 16,022 containers that are each 20-feet long. Source
  • Investing in new coal, oil and gas projects must stop to hit climate goals, global energy agency says

    World News CBC News
    A report by the International Energy Agency says immediate action is needed to reshape the world's energy sector in order to meet ambitious climate goals by 2050, including ending investments in new coal mines, oil and gas wells. Source
  • Quebec reports 549 new COVID-19 cases, 9 more deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec has 549 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 364,396 since the start of the pandemic. The province's health officials also confirmed nine more deaths, a total of 11,050 after it was ruled one death was not related to COVID-19. Source
  • Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fire more rockets into Israel

    World News CBC News
    Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and Palestinian militants resumed cross-border rocket fire on Tuesday after a brief overnight lull during which the United Nations sent a small fuel convoy into the enclave, where it says 52,000 people are now displaced. Source
  • Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada has marked 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started. The country reached the grim milestone on Tuesday, after Ontario reported an additional 17 deaths related to the disease. Many younger Canadians succumbed to the disease in recent months, as the third COVID-19 wave overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Source
  • Ontario reports lowest number of COVID-19 cases in nearly two months with fewer than 1,700 infections logged

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Health officials in Ontario are reporting fewer than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19, marking the lowest single-day total in almost two months. The 1,616 infections recorded Tuesday represent a significant drop from the 2,170 reported by the province a day earlier. Source
  • Experts warn shuttered Australia is becoming a 'hermit nation'

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his "Fortress Australia" COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, as experts warned that plans to keep the borders closed for another year will create a "hermit nation." "Everyone is keen to get back to a time that we once knew," the conservative leader said in the face of growing calls for international borders to reopen. Source