The conclusion of the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial is making waves in Guelph.
Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis issued a press release early today. In it, Jessica St. Peter, public educator for the organization, said when allegations of violence against women were first brought against Jian Ghomeshi, “many responded with disbelief.”
She added that once allegations against Ghomeshi began to pile up, a different perspective began to emerge.
St. Peter has been following the case ever since it broke. In a telephone interview she said that she is not shocked by the verdict that found Ghomeshi not guilty of sexual assault. But she wants people to reflect on the issues that have been raised by the case, such as how the evidence is investigated, and why public agencies allow victims to be victimized over and over again.
“We need to look at the justice system,” she said, adding that a guilty verdict “would have had a different effect on survivors.”
She said those who support sexual assault victims must believe the stories of survivors. Otherwise, those wishing to report a sexual assault face being “whacked” in the process - in other words, re-victimized.
St. Peter said the Ghomeshi case has been personally upsetting to her, and was being widely talked about in Guelph after the verdict was delivered. The high visibility of the case and its outcome “may perpetuate the myth that women lie about being sexually assaulted,” she said.
She added that the way the women were questioned in court and had their statements torn apart leaves “one less open door for a survivor seeking justice.”
In her press release, St. Peter said Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis “wishes to note that the witnesses in this case did express resistance to their experiences with the accused.”
She added that the women “sought support and connection with other women who shared this experience,” and reported to the police when urged by then-Police Chief Bill Blair.
“We recognize these significant actions as meaningful in the face of violence – even though this court case clearly did not do so – and commend all survivors for their own responses,” she wrote.
St. Peter wants women who have experienced sexual violence to know that there are people who will believe and support them. She urges them to call 519-836-5710 or 1-800-265-7233.