What’s more shocking than this week’s breaking news about Jian Ghomeshi’s dismissal from CBC is the reality that, allegedly, upwards of 4 women are afraid to go on the record against him for fear of being shunned and attacked by Ghomeshi and Q fanatics.
Maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t, but a fear of being shunned by the public should never be a woman’s reason not to speak up, and the fact that thousands of people are already calling these women horrible people — before we know the facts — only reinforces the sentiment among many assaulted women that they should stay quiet to avoid public persecution, especially in high profile cases.
That is what we should all be talking about this week. I don’t yet know what he did or didn’t do, but I do know that, unrelated to this case, there are numerous instances of assault victims being crucified online for speaking out against male aggressors. Time will tell if Jian was “smeared,” so let’s wait and see. But time has already shown us why so many women keep quiet about cases just like this one.
Recently, a friend confided in me that she found herself in a similar position. Initially, things were consensual, until the man became violent and did things against her will. She chose not to go public or to the police.
Initially, hurt and outraged on her behalf, I regretfully told her what I thought she should do, as if I had any right to tell her how to deal with this.
“That’s why I didn’t want to tell you, or anyone,” she said. “I don’t want the general public commenting on how I should deal with my emotional duress, and the decisions I made, and what lines were and were not crossed.”
That’s when I saw the light: even with our best intentions, I, we, most of us, still don’t know how to address the issue that women are keeping silent about sexual assault because of our judgements on them for speaking up about it, or even, for not speaking up about it.
Until we definitively know whether Jian is a creep, or a man smeared at the height of his career, his guilt isn’t the bigger story here. The bigger story is that the 4 women making the allegations will not go on the record, because we the public already have the audacity to tell them how to feel about what’s happened to them, and even worse, what their actions did to a man who might indeed have assaulted them. Had we waited until a trial to judge these women, maybe they wouldn’t be rightfully citing fear of public harassment as their reason for not going on the record.
To be clear, since some people are questioning the article’s motives, this is not a stance on Jian’s guilt or innocence, but a piece on victim silence, and how, even if the people accusing Jian are lying, women are seeing the consequence of speaking out about assault It’s a piece about what we can do to lessen victim silence, and if Jian is the stand-up guy we want to believe he is, he would agree with this sentiment. But this article, if you read it how it was intended to to read, isn’t even about Jian.