The Ghomeshi mess

After the first week of testimony in the Jian Ghomeshi trial, it’s hard to imagine that any judge could find him guilty as charged. The first two of his three accusers have clear recollections of his attacks, but they hardly avoided him afterwards. Letters, emails, photos and follow-ups of various sorts don’t paint a picture of someone who felt wronged. One even wrote a lengthy letter that concluded, “I love your hands.”

What is the meaning of consent? The alleged attacks may have come as a surprise but does desiring an ongoing relationship provide consent after the fact? Or is there is any such thing in the law as retroactive consent?

It’s equally hard to imagine that the Crown was aware of all the evidence stored on Ghomeshi’s computer, let alone the aforementioned letter he kept for twelve years. Perhaps they wouldn’t have proceeded if they’d known what the defence would be able to produce.

But beyond this specific trial, there is a far larger question. There’s been a lot of tongue-clucking about the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. The events are being held up as examples of what happens when men of other cultures arrive in great numbers to a place where such activities are not as overlooked as they are likely to be in their home countries. But don’t we have an equally problematic cultural issue in North America? How many other women will come forward in the days and years ahead to reveal sexual harassment incidents? Why would they, given the reception and hearing all too often received?

I’m respectful when I get on an elevator with one other passenger, a woman. I stay quiet, in a corner. If I find myself following a woman on an empty street at night, I fall back rather than make her feel unnecessarily fearful. Women deserve better than they get from men, but I don’t see this trial bringing about an improvement anytime soon whether it’s in the workplace, a campus dorm or on a first date with a star.

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