Reflecting on the Ghomeshi trial verdict

Outcome of trial is emotionally heavy, disappointing for many

By the time you are reading this piece, two weeks will have passed since the verdict of the Jian Ghomeshi trial was released. Two words that, for most people, were hard to swallow: not guilty. Since then, a lot has transpired – mass media outcry against the court’s decision, rallies and marches to support survivors, scrutinization of Ghomeshi’s female lawyer Marie Henein, backlash against “hashtag activists,” and a widespread eruption of emotions. Survivors, along with the support of others, have come forward to share their stories and express their immense anger, sadness and absolute disappointment with our “justice” system. Conversations surrounding sexual assault are at the forefront now more than ever before. The Ghomeshi verdict, whether you supported it or not, ignited an opinionated spark in everyone.

For me, the verdict was absolutely heart-wrenching. Sitting at my kitchen table and reading through the headlines and news articles, I felt paralyzed, angry, sad, hopeless. Memories of my own experiences with abuse and sexual violence immediately came flooding back. Although I was not surprised with the verdict, it still hit hard knowing that the “justice” system, the system that is supposed to protect us, had failed us once again. For me, this case was a clear example of why so many victims of sexual violence and abuse do not come forward with their stories. Why would we willingly choose to relive our traumas over and over again if we are the ones that are constantly put on trial? If we know that our stories will not be believed by the authority we are supposed to trust? If we will be told that “we shouldn’t have drank that much” or “we shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt?” Placing trust and faith in the justice system and expecting it to deliver justice to our abusers seems like a cruelly optimistic thought to me. The amount of emotional labour women take on when faced with experiences of trauma and abuse is astounding. We are taught to swallow our feelings and blame ourselves, transforming anger and hurt into shame and guilt.

Reflecting on the Ghomeshi verdict has made me re-evaluate a lot of things that have happened in my own life, as well as the relationships I’ve had, or still do have, with individuals who have hurt me in the past. My own personal experiences with trauma and abuse cannot speak for anyone else’s experiences or feelings, especially toward the Ghomeshi trial. However, I do know that these experiences of mine, as well as hearing the stories of so many other survivors, remind me why I am a feminist and why I choose to fight against systems of oppression every single day. In light of this trial and this verdict, I know that I cannot stop fighting for what I believe in and who I believe in. I know that it is OK to not forgive those that hurt and abused me. I know that it is OK not to be OK sometimes.

It is OK if you didn’t tell anybody. It is OK if you only talked about it weeks, months, years later. We believe you. I believe you.

Katharyn Stevenson