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

  • How to help your kids spot COVID-19 misinformation

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Neither parents nor Canadian schools have prepared students for the deluge of misinformation circulating online during the COVID-19 pandemic, says one education expert. For the most vulnerable among us, social media can be a confusing source for information and not enough is being done to help children sift through the muck, says education strategist Dwayne Matthews. Source
  • Jumbo task: Elephant hoisted from deep well in India

    World News CTV News
    DHARMAPURI, INDIA -- A wild elephant that fell into a well in southern India was lifted out with a crane following a 16-hour rescue mission involving dozens of rangers and firefighters. The elephant fell more than 20 metres (70 feet) after it wandered into a village in Tamil Nadu state last week while looking for food. Source
  • French former president Sarkozy stands trial for corruption

    World News CBC News
    Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Monday on charges of corruption and influence-peddling in a phone-tapping scandal, a first for the 65-year-old politician who has faced several other judicial investigations since leaving office in 2012. Source
  • Former French president Sarkozy's trial for corruption suspended

    World News CBC News
    Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Monday on charges of corruption and influence-peddling in a phone-tapping scandal, a first for the 65-year-old politician who has faced several other judicial investigations since leaving office in 2012. Source
  • Trump campaign legal team distances itself from Powell

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Perhaps Sidney Powell has gone too far for even Rudy Giuliani this time. The Trump campaign's legal team moved to distance itself Sunday from the firebrand conservative attorney after a tumultuous several days in which Powell made multiple incorrect statements about the voting process, unspooled unsupported and complex conspiracy theories and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” lawsuit. Source
  • Trump campaign legal team distances itself from conservative attorney

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Perhaps Sidney Powell has gone too far for even Rudy Giuliani this time. The Trump campaign's legal team moved to distance itself Sunday from the firebrand conservative attorney after a tumultuous several days in which Powell made multiple incorrect statements about the voting process, unspooled unsupported and complex conspiracy theories and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” lawsuit. Source
  • Israeli PM flew to Saudi Arabia, met crown prince: reports

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia for a clandestine meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would mark the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials. Source
  • Israeli PM flew to Saudi Arabia for clandestine meeting with crown prince: reports

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia for a clandestine meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would mark the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials. Source
  • Windsor's Frank W. Begley Public School reporting 37 confirmed COVID-19 cases

    Canada News CTV News
    WINDSOR, ONT. -- A Windsor school has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported on Monday there are 37 confirmed cases and two probable cases at Frank W. Begley Elementary School. Source
  • Psychiatrist set to testify for defence at Toronto's van attack trial

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A psychiatrist is set to testify for the defence today in the murder trial for the man who killed 10 people after driving a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk. Dr. John Bradford is set to provide his evaluation of Alek Minassian, who has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Source