Ghomeshi Trial-A Judicial System that Fails Survivors of Sexual Assault

Courts of law continuously baffle us with their lack of knowledge of sexual assault and its impact on survivors. The Ghomeshi trial, that could have been a landmark case in restoring survivors’ faith in the justice system was heavily marked by victim blaming. With at least five women testifying against Jian Ghomeshi one would think a serial assaulter would be brought to book by the Canadian justice system.

While Ghomeshi refused to testify and is now completely acquitted of all charges, the survivors were picked apart and blamed for not ‘being consistent’ and ‘withholding’ information. But as many exclaimed, this came as no surprise. This also means ridicule and shaming for survivors who were brave enough to testify publicly. The judge also stressed that the testimonies of sexual assault survivors must be looked through with extra caution. Doesn’t this add to the myth that women lie about being sexually assaulted?

In Ghomeshi’s trial, the judge alludes to messages sent after an assault. Victims who personally know an assaulter are confused by the nature of the attack and do not keep tabs on the chronological order in which incidents take place. A romantic liaison with the assaulter leads to the victim trying to ‘make amends’ because they usually blame themselves for the assault. Every official dealing with a case of sexual assault must have an understanding of the above information. It is common knowledge that victims try to erase the memories of an assault as a coping mechanism and yet, these facts aren’t taken into account by courts.

Victim-blaming is a huge part of sexual assault cases which says a lot about how biased judicial systems are across the world. Time and again, courts of law have proved that when it comes to addressing sexual assault or assault cases concerning women, they fall short immensely. Assault survivors are questioned relentlessly on things they may not remember in a sequence. This can be equated to gaslighting and intimidation and a narrative that solely blames women for their assault.

How does someone, who has been violated by a powerful public personality not buckle under pressure when torn apart by a defense lawyer? Shouldn’t there be an active restructuring of a justice system that spectacularly fails women? And some sort of sensitization for police officials, lawyers and judges to make sure they change their horribly outdated views on sexual assault?