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

  • Polish minister claims Egypt sold warships to Russia for symbolic price of $1

    World News CTV News
    WARSAW, Poland - Poland's defence minister says he believes Egypt has sold two French-made Mistral warships to Russia for the symbolic price of $1. Antoni Macierewicz made the claim during a parliamentary debate on Thursday and later told reporters he had the information "from good sources" but did not reveal any other details. Source
  • 'I'm petrified': Cape Breton braces for more rainfall after severe flooding

    Canada News CTV News
    Parts of Atlantic Canada are bracing for heavy rainfall this weekend as Cape Breton continues to clean up from a severe Thanksgiving weekend storm that flooded hundreds of homes. Environment Canada has issued special weather statements about heavy rainfall in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Source
  • Typhoon Haima lashes China; death toll up in Philippines [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    VIGAN, Philippines — Super Typhoon Haima weakened and blew out to sea Thursday after smashing the northern Philippines with ferocious wind and rain overnight. Flooding, landslides and power outages were evident, but large casualties appeared to have been averted after nearly 100,000 people fled to safer ground. Source
  • Still no aid for Aleppo's sick, hungry and wounded despite Russian pause in bombing

    World News CBC News
    The United Nations said medical evacuations from eastern Aleppo had not begun on Friday as it had hoped, as a lack of security guarantees and "facilitation" prevent aid workers taking advantage of a pause in the bombing announced by Russia. Source
  • British American Tobacco offers to buy Reynolds in $47B deal

    World News CBC News
    British American Tobacco offered Friday to buy Reynolds American Inc. in a $47 billion US cash-and-stock deal that would create the world's largest publicly traded tobacco company and bring together brands like Camel, Dunhill, and Newport. Source
  • Syrian government opens new corridor for evacuations from Aleppo

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- The Syrian government on Friday opened a new corridor for rebels and civilians who want to leave the besieged eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo, but the UN said planned medical evacuations haven't begun as planned because of a lack of security assurances from the warring sides. Source
  • 50 years on, U.K. marks mine disaster that killed 128 children

    World News CTV News
    LONDON - People across Britain fell silent to mark 50 years since a mountain of coal sludge collapsed onto a Welsh village, killing more than 140 people in one of the country's worst mining disasters. Source
  • Hospitalized woman facing deportation has hearing into possible release

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- A hearing will be held today to determine if a hospitalized woman facing deportation back to England should be moved from a detention list. Fliss Cramman has been held since June when the Canada Border Services Agency discovered she did not have Canadian citizenship. Source
  • After rejecting Trump, McCain faces backlash from some Republicans

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX - In his pursuit of a sixth term, Republican Sen. John McCain reluctantly stood by Donald Trump for months despite personal insults and the bombastic businessman's string of controversial claims. That tepid support ended earlier this month after the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump used crude, predatory language to boast about groping women. Source
  • One year later, pain from whale-watching tragedy remains in Tofino

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA - Entire communities have been honoured, individuals cited for heroism and boats blessed, but one year after the sinking of a whale-watching vessel off British Columbia that tossed 27 people into the churning Pacific, the wounds have barely started to heal. Source