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

  • China should allow Nobel laureate to seek treatment abroad: U.S. envoy

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - The new U.S. ambassador to Beijing said Wednesday that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo should be allowed to receive treatment outside China after he was diagnosed with cancer while in prison for advocating democratic reforms. Source
  • Montreal man back in U.S. court over airport stabbing

    World News CTV News
    FLINT, Mich. - A Canadian man accused of stabbing an airport police officer in Flint, Michigan, is returning to court to learn if he'll remain in custody. Amor Ftouhi is unlikely to be granted bond Wednesday because the charge is serious and he lives outside the U.S. Source
  • Review board wants another look at decision in Keith Lamont Scott killing case

    World News CTV News
    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A review board Tuesday found "substantial evidence of error" in a North Carolina police department’s decision that the fatal shooting of a black man by an officer last year was justified and scheduled another hearing on the matter in August. Source
  • Man dies in hospital after being shot in apartment by Montreal police

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    THE CANADIAN PRESS First posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:38 AM EDT | Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:44 AM EDT Source
  • FBI agent indicted over Oregon refuge standoff shooting

    World News CTV News
    PORTLAND, Ore. - An FBI agent has been indicted on accusations that he lied about firing at a rancher in 2016 when officers arrested leaders of an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in rural Oregon. Source
  • Trump administration plans border wall models in summer

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN DIEGO - The agency in charge of U.S. border security plans to start building prototypes for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico later this summer. Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection’s acting deputy commissioner, said Tuesday that four to eight companies will get contracts for prototypes in San Diego that could be models for the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometre) border. Source
  • Activists take step to recall judge in Brock Turner sex assault case

    World News CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO - Activists seeking to recall a judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman say they believe voters will still support the effort even if it appears on the ballot two years after the trial. Source
  • Iran accuses U.S. of 'brazen' plan to change its government

    World News CTV News
    Iran is accusing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of "a brazen interventionist plan" to change the current government that violates international law and the UN Charter. Iran's UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Tuesday that Tillerson's comments are also "a flagrant violation" of the 1981 Algiers Accords in which the United States pledged "not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal…
  • Major security measures for Ottawa's Canada 150 bash amid ISIS threat

    Canada News CTV News
    More than 500,000 revelers are expected to flock to Parliament Hill Saturday to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, and heightened security will be in place across the capital to ensure the party goes off without a hitch. Source
  • One Hong Kong, two sentiments after 20 years of Chinese rule

    World News CTV News
    Hong Kong is planning a big party as it marks 20 years under Chinese rule. But many people in the former British colony are not in the mood to celebrate. Fireworks, a gala variety show and Chinese military displays are among the official events planned to coincide with a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping starting Thursday for the occasion. Source