Following the Ghomeshi trial many conversations opened up about why survivors of sexual violence do or do not come forward, and the conversation has continued as we discuss sexual assault and violence on university campuses. In this scene from The Ghomeshi Effect, three interviews explore the reality of coming forward with allegations of sexual violence, from the perspective of survivors and lawyers.
I guess in a loose sense I considered court, but I was so young, my brain was still forming, my memories, it’s been a slog to try and figure out what happened. Like I would say, if it’s a 500-piece puzzle, I probably have like a hundred pieces, and so taking that to court seems like a suicide mission, you know? And I just, I don’t want to do that to myself. Though I’m really drawn to the idea of getting justice. And I think that’s why that kind of direct justice, like harming him – I’ve also had fantasies of ruining his life, because in many ways I feel like he’s ruined mine.
That’s another thing that people need to be educated on. What the criminal justice system actually does for you. You don’t get anything. You don’t get money. You maybe get a guilty verdict. And on top of that, you maybe get a sentence. Maybe. But is a guilty verdict really –? It doesn’t fix you. It doesn’t make you better. It doesn’t make it all go away.
Actually, in law school one thing that’s missing – this is probably a very unexciting point, but – in medical school there’s such a thing as bedside manner, patient relations, right, so in law school there isn’t a separate course in terms of, how do I deal with a client? How do I not traumatize that client? How do I not make it worse? It’s just sort of seen as this procedural thing where, we allocate responsibility and costs and you know if there’s physical harm we assign $95,000 to the missing thumb and that’s it. But there’s way more to the story, so there should be a protocol, people should be trained in terms of how not to make things worse.
If someone were accused of attempted murder, you would not ask the victim of the attempted murder on the stand, so how deep did the knife go, how many times did they turn in, did you consent in any way, were you feeling suicidal that day, you just, you wouldn’t, right?
And so when we have a type of crime where it’s basically 99% go unprosecuted and 93-94% go unreported, just the seismic effect of that, and it’s unacknowledged beneath our society, beneath the surface of our relations and our sexual relations, it shakes me to me core [laugh]. I just, we can’t, it can’t continue, it just can’t, you know if we said oh you know 94% of car accidents go unreported or 99% of drunk drivers go unprosecuted, right. So I mean our justice system is failing even on its own terms in that sense because no matter what you think about the credibility of witnesses or liability of a particular piece of testimony, if you have a crime where 99% regularly go unprosecuted, when the purpose of the criminal justice system is to prosecute crimes that affect society, that are really crimes against society, then we’re absolutely failing in an abysmal manner.
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