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'."


Latest Canada & World News

  • 'A revolving door': Neighbours angry about Burnaby B.C. home operating as 9-bedroom hotel

    Canada News CTV News
    A multi-million dollar Burnaby, B.C. home that was advertising nine rooms on short-term rental sites like Airbnb and Booking.com has neighbours calling on municipal authorities to shut down the de-facto hotel. The house was bought for $2.65 million last September. Source
  • Anti-pipeline protests continue in Burnaby, B.C.

    Canada News CTV News
    BURNABY, B.C. -- Anti-pipeline protesters are continuing to demonstrate near Kinder Morgan's terminal in Burnaby, B.C., today. Dozens of people followed Indigenous leaders in a march toward a gate to the Burnaby Terminal, with organizers saying more than 70 of them were prepared to be arrested. Source
  • Gun control rallies being held in over a dozen Canadian cities in support of March for Our Lives

    Canada News CBC News
    More than a dozen Canadian cities are hosting marches to call for stricter gun control laws in both Canada and the United States in the wake of a deadly high school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. Source
  • Man dog-sledding from Churchill to New Brunswick reaches halfway point

    Canada News CBC News
    A musher and his 12 Alaskan huskies have reached the halfway point of their 3,000-kilometre dog sled trek from Manitoba to his home province of New Brunswick. Justin Allen left Churchill, Man., on January 22 and arrived in Moosonee, Ont. Source
  • Driver fired after Ottawa school vehicle struck by gate arm at train crossing

    Canada News CTV News
    An Ottawa father is demanding answers after a vehicle transporting his eight-year-old son to school was struck by a railway crossing’s gate arms while a VIA Rail Canada train roared past. Jim Stackhouse said three-and-a-half hours passed before he was informed of the incident on Thursday. Source
  • Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - More than a dozen Canadian cities are hosting marches to call for stricter gun control laws in both Canada and the United States in the wake of a deadly high school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. Source
  • Gun control rally begins where the movement was sparked

    World News CTV News
    PARKLAND, Fla. -- Thousands of people filled a park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at a "March for Our Lives" rally near the site of last month's school massacre in Parkland, Florida. Saturday's rally in South Florida had the feel of a campaign event. Source
  • Kaetlyn Osmond's Marystown homecoming in April now a world champion's welcome

    Canada News CBC News
    Kaetlyn Osmond stunned the skating world Friday evening in Milan when she unexpectedly became the first Canadian woman in 45 years to win the world figure skating championships — just weeks before the small Newfoundland town where she grew up hosts her for a skating event. Source
  • 'Share your spare': N.B. man advertising on car to find kidney donors

    Canada News CTV News
    A New Brunswick man is hitting the road in the hopes of finding a kidney donor. Dan McLaughlin and his wife Patricia stuck decals to the back windows of their cars on Thursday, asking people to “share your spare. Source
  • Hundreds gather in Toronto in support of U.S. gun control rally

    Canada News CBC News
    About 200 people have gathered in Toronto on Saturday for the March of Our Lives rally to show solidarity with the U.S. gun control movement. The Toronto rally got underway at 10 a.m. at Nathan Phillips Square, where demonstrators began a march to Queen's Park. Source