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Jian Ghomeshi, former CBC host, was acquitted of all charges of sexual assault today. He had been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to overcome resistance, all of which he plead not guilty to.
“We are not surprised, but we are outraged,” Hilla Kerner at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter told rabble. “We’re disappointed and we’re angry and we think the most important message from this judgment is that the criminal justice system is not giving women justice.”
Lenore Lukasik-Foss, Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) and Executive Director of SACHA agreed and told rabble “the verdict was not surprising given the stats we know about conviction rates, particularly in historical sexual assaults and when folks are in a relationship of any sort.”
Tonight a similar rally and march organized by RSU Centre for Women and Trans People will take place in Toronto and countless other actions are being organized across the country.
Supporters of sexual assault survivors are also using #WeBelieveSurvivors to stand in solidarity with women speaking up about violent experiences and share their reaction to the verdict. Use this hashtag to find an event near your city.
The outcome of this case arguably sets precedent for future cases of sexual assault, particularly as sexual assault survivors are often hesitant to come forward about their experiences.
“We’re very concerned that how this is going to play out for survivors is that the message is loud and clear that your behaviour will be under the microscope. What you do before and after your experience of abuse or assault is going to be analyzed and that the person who has perpetrated the violence or abuse — they don’t even have to take the stand. None of their behaviour is scrutinized,” Lukasik-Foss told rabble.
In fact, nearly 80 per cent of sexual assaults currently go unreported to police in Canada.
“For many years now women have been really worrying from coming forward and speaking to police and facing trial,” said Kerner. “This case, unfortunately, is reinforcing women’s worries.”
The bravery of those who did choose to come forward in this trial has been commended by others.
“The bravery of these women who refused to be silent and insisted on being heard…and tried to seek justice and hold these men accountable is also very important,” she said. “Many women are encouraged with that.”
Survivors of sexual assault can call rape crisis centres across Canada to seek support or to express their feelings as a result of today’s verdict in a safe, supportive place. Lukasik-Foss emphasized that sexual assault and rape crisis centres are available 24 hours a day to provide support, and are available to discuss this case and verdict specifically.
“I want survivors to know that they are not alone,” said Lukasik-Foss “There are people here who believe them and who are there and want to offer support and that the criminal system is one system but it’s not the yardstick of truth and there are other avenues of support and healing.”
Family and friends who know someone dealing with sexual violence should listen without judgement or expectations of a formal report and find safe spaces to seeks additional support, said the OCRCC in a statement.
If you are in need of immediate emotional support or a safe space, please consult this directory for all Rape Crisis Centres in Canada for an organization near you.