Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jian Ghomeshi's acquittal and the systemic misogyny of the justice system

As many have suspected would happen, Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted today.

The verdict, sadly, is not much of a surprise and is grotesquely indicative of how in sexual assault trials it is still really the victims who are on trial. In this case, the treatment of the three complainants shows this very clearly.

What is truly revolting and stunning is how the "judgement" by Ontario Court Justice William Horkins in parts reads like it was written by Paul Elam at A Voice for Men or by some other "men's rights" ideologue!

After dismissing and attacking the credibility of all three of the women in the case,  the judge wrote of , while avoiding stereotypes about victims, "the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful".

Fucking seriously. He actually wrote this.

In 2016.

It is a shockingly ideological statement that simply turns reality on its head. As if there is an equivalence between the two in a "justice" system where the VAST majority of sexual assaults are never reported, let alone to brought to trial and where those that are most often result in acquittal!

The facts.
A report by the Justice Department itself found:

A majority of sexual assault victims have little to no confidence in the police, the courts or the criminal justice system, according to a new government survey that echoes what advocates have been saying for years.
The responses in the Justice Canada survey indicate that two-thirds of the men and women who took part had no faith in the justice system, the process of filing a complaint against their abuser and the prospect of seeing a conviction.
The majority of victims of both child and adult sexual abuse did not even bother filing a complaint with the police, fearing they would be blamed or wouldn’t be taken seriously, the document says.
“Survivors also often feel they are not believed and are somehow to blame,” says the report in The Victims of Crime Research Digest.
“There was a perception among some that while the survivor must cope with the traumatic experience, the accused is not punished.”
"Little to no confidence in the police, the courts or the criminal justice system". I wonder why.

 According to a different study by University of Ottawa professor Holly Johnson:
Her research also shows how often sexual assaults reported to the police aren’t recorded as a crime. This happens when after an initial investigation, the police decide a crime didn’t happen and so will register the complaint as “unfounded.” In her paper, Johnson writes “sexual assaults are subjected to ‘unfounding’ to a far greater extent than any other crime.”
There are countless other studies and statistics that all say the same thing.

The general and systemic "false assumptions" about sexual assault victims are the exact opposite of what Horkins implies and the notion that there is an equal need of vigilance against sexual assault victims being truthful is, as one commentator put it, idiotic.

Justice Horkins' entire judgement shows the very real ideological and male supremacist patriarchal beliefs that are a part of the bedrock of the justice system as a whole. A part of its foundation. There is, indeed, a "political correctness" at work in our courts and society, and it is systemic misogyny.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece used the widely shared but incorrect quote: "We must fight against the stereotype that all sexual assault complaints are truthful". This was wrong. What was actually said in the judgement was "However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful"  The piece has been modified to reflect this. 


  1. Did you read the entire judgment? If you did then you would know he went to great lengths to ensure he did not come across as misogynistic. The reality is when a trial comes down to he said - she said then it is the voices of those who are most credible who are believed. The witnesses in this case lied - repeatedly (thinking they would not get caught obviously). They misstated, they colluded, they lied and then they lied some more. Your statements, no matter how passionately or persuasively stated do not substitute for the truth. I think he did it. I also think he's a jerk and (and a few other things that cannot be stated in public); however, if you wish to be believed and found credible by a court of law then you need to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth . Lying under oath. Colluding with the other witnesses in which you gleefully state you're going to take him down does not help your case. The only factors here that determined the outcome of this trial were not misogyny, not systemic gender bias, were not some evil plot to keep women down but the witnesses who could not or would not recognize truth. These women have done more harm than any million men and a rigid system could ever do.

  2. I agree with Hilary's comments. The reaction to the decision is an example of confirmation bias, with many alleging the result was because of Justice Horkin's misogyny or bias, rather than trying to understand the limits of a criminal justice system that relies on a standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a desirable social purpose - to prevent wrongful convictions of the innocent by the state apparatus. Horkin goes to some effort to acknowledge the difficulties women face in pursuing these complaints, and to explain his duty as a judge in determining whether there was an overt or implied lack of consent, which is necessary finding in both sexual and common assault cases in order to obtain a conviction. But critics prefer to ignore this because of a bias that assumes the failure to convict is attributable to the judge's bias or misogyny.

  3. Thinking can easily be corrupted by an ideological bias that can obviously keep a person from honestly acknowledging the facts of this case. All three of these women flat-out lied, withheld crucial information, and violated their sworn oath to tell the truth, the entire truth and nothing but the truth. Thank God the judge wasn't swayed by people who believe that courts should not be based on what is proven to be factually true, but whatever a woman "says" is true, even after being proved untrue.