Jian Ghomeshi and the anonymous women: What’s next?

Update, Oct. 29: I have just heard Carol Off’s interview on CBC with a woman who said she was attacked by Jian Ghomeshi. I found it completely convincing because Carol Off asked all the questions that needed answering. I have not one shadow of a doubt that this woman’s account is true. I also really, really wish she had reported it to the police. And so does she. And, just one more thing, I wish her nurse friend had encouraged her to go to the police too.

Many people are outraged when I tell them that Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers lose credibility with me because of their failure to report his alleged assaults to the police. How dare you say such a stupid thing, they say. You support rape culture. Or, if they’re kind, they just face palm.

“Why didn’t they report it?” has become the new “Why didn’t they just leave?”

Please don’t tell me how hard it is to report a sexual assault. I get it. I’ve been following this issue for 40 years. And when you go on and on about how difficult it is, you’re ignoring decades of progress. You’re acting as if nothing can ever change. And you’re discouraging other women from coming forward. So, yes, when I hear a woman didn’t report an alleged sexual assault, I do wonder why.

Now please take note again, and understand that that does not mean I’m accusing this non-reporting woman of being a liar. But it does mean I have some questions for her.

In the Jian Ghomeshi case, the answers the Star provided from the three women who said they were violently assaulted, did not answer those questions. The Star stated:

None of the women filed police complaints and none agreed to go on the record. The reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation. (A woman who wrote an account of an encounter with a Canadian radio host believed to be Ghomeshi was subjected to vicious Internet attacks by online readers who said they were supporters of the host.)

Here’s the problem. The women are more likely to have their identities revealed and be sued by having gone to the press instead of the police. If charges had been laid, their names would have been protected by a publication ban and anyone breaking the ban would have been subject to criminal prosecution. For some reason, this  was not mentioned in the Star.

Nor was the fact that the vicious internet attacks sparked by the woman who wrote about her date-gone-wrong with Ghomeshi were equal opportunity. Anyone who reads comment threads can go see for themselves that Ghomeshi was vilified right alongside the writer.

It also deserves to be said that the Carla Ciccone article — a blind item published in 2013 and designed to generate buzz — was probably where this current mess began. It brought the talk about Ghomeshi out onto the internet in a way it never had been before. It’s why people were speculating before his Facebook post went up that this was going to be a sexual story.

To come back, however, to the specific allegations of violent assault made in the Star article, I find them shocking and disturbing. But I also find it shocking and disturbing that, for the accused, there is really no way to defend himself against this type of anonymous accusation in a trial by media.

Of the four accounts given by the women to the Star, the one I actually found the least credible was the story of sexual harassment at work.

The woman said she complained about Ghomeshi’s behaviour to her union representative, who took the complaint to a Q producer. As the woman recalls, the producer asked her “what she could do to make this a less toxic workplace” for herself. No further action was taken by the CBC, and the woman left the broadcaster shortly thereafter.

As a former employee of the CBC (a very long time ago), it just defies belief that the union rep would blow something like this off and that the Q producer wouldn’t know it was a ticking time bomb. And why was there no complaint to HR? (Yesterday, both the CBC and its main union said they had never received a formal complaint against Ghomeshi.) Where were the sympathetic women colleagues? This is, after all, the CBC we’re talking about not the NFL. Given that the Star says it had several detailed interviews with this woman, how did these questions not come up?

I know that by now some of you readers are very angry at me for putting the alleged victims on trial and being part of the whole rape culture apparatus. So once again, I get it. I know that, in a criminal action, even if the accusers are highly credible, they would be up against a defendant who, as an immensely talented broadcaster, knows exactly how to tell his story. It could very well end up a “he says, she says” case with a jury unable to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I have no solution to propose to that problem just like I have no solution to the problem of murderers who walk on a technicality or the inhumane delays in getting cases to trials. I don’t, however, much like your solution where due process is thrown out the window, we accept that women never ever lie about sexual assault, and we forget about that whole right to face your accusers thing.

Speaking of which, in his Facebook post, Ghomeshi made a comment that hasn’t really been picked up on. “The ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations,” he wrote.

Given that his statement was highly strategic and very well planned, I can’t help but wonder if hearing from the ex won’t be the next instalment in this awful story. The internet outrage machine will soon be ready for its next stoking once the election news has died down.

7 thoughts on “Jian Ghomeshi and the anonymous women: What’s next?

    1. I don’t think it’s naive at all. Union reps are the leftist of the lefties at the CBC. It’s also an organization filled with powerful women who know all about sexual assault and “rape culture”


  1. This is a reasonable piece, but I think what you’re not acknowledging, perhaps, is that most people, including myself, and presumably the women involved, a) don’t/didn’t know that there’s anonymity involved in a complaint, b) perhaps assumed, reasonably, that their identities would be leaked or would come out either way (entirely plausible in this the Internet age where no secrets can be hidden for long) or c) The women felt, understandably that talking to a reporter about it rather than laying a charge would indeed have the intended effect of putting a stop to this guy (which is most definitely has) without involving them in a legal process in which they’d have to testify.


    1. Thank you. I think the reporters had an obligation to inform the women about the publication ban. (And perhaps they did) Your explanation is plausible, but I’d like to hear it from the women.


  2. I appreciate your comments, esp: “I don’t, however, much like your solution where due process is thrown out the window, we accept that women never ever lie about sexual assault, and we forget about that whole right to face your accusers thing.” While the mounting allegations seem to be tipping this story toward an unavoidable conclusion, it still seems critical to me that we remember fair process. This is not only trial by media but character crucifixion — with not a single charge laid and no formal explanation from the CBC for his firing.

    One point though: having been involved a few different unions: unions are not necessarily hotbeds of sympathy or social progressiveness. While many unions make equality and social issues a foundation for their existence, many merely talk the talk. Plus, even in a cool, progressive union you could still get a dickwad of a shop steward.


    1. Thx. Let me start with the union, you’re right, but I was also a member of the CBC Union once upon a time. So yes, a bad shop steward is possible. For me it was the combination of the bad Union rep, the doofus producer, no woman colleague to say, “you need to go to HR now” and the reluctance of the producer herself to push. At this point, I’m willing to say maybe it was the perfect storm.

      Re innocent til proven guilty, that still holds. Even when I was writing about how Jian Ghomeshi deserved due process, I was conscious of the fact that I have never shied away from saying I believe Dellen Millard is guilty. That doesn’t mean I don’t think both of them deserve a fair trial. Nor would I screach at the people with a different opinion from mine. But I do feel both of them are guilty.

      Hearing the new details does fundamentally change things for me.

      It also confirms that women should be encouraged not discouraged from going to the police in cases like this. The more that has come out, the more people believe the allegations, which now will likely end up in court.


  3. As more and more information comes out from past encounters, one can no longer presume they’re all from jilted ex’s. Yet Ghomeshi insists all his relationships were consensual. How can that be rationalized? What if it was a total lack of communication? He initiated the violence and then misread his victims’ reaction, or lack thereof, as consent. In his twisted mind he assumed they were consenting, but they weren’t.

    There have been, and are, many famous, powerful men who have had their way with women and suffered no consequences. What about John Kennedy?


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