(NOTE: This column originally appeared on February 16, 2016.) In November 2014, Jian Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “choking to overcome resistance."
Before these allegations, Ghomeshi was a celebrity and self-styled feminist who ran a popular radio program on the CBC. He was well-liked by members of the public and even had a friendly relationship with our Prime Minister. Behind the scenes, however, Ghomeshi seems to have had a dark side.
Exactly how much evidence is there against Ghomeshi, though? All we have are unproven allegations: the testimonies of a smattering of women, some of whom had dated Ghomeshi over a decade ago.
People inundated the media with stories about Ghomeshi. An author claimed Ghomeshi put his “hands around [her] throat” and “violently penetrated” her with his fingers. A former CBC employee claimed she felt pressured by Ghomeshi to “perform fellatio” on him in a hotel room. A fan of Ghomeshi’s claimed that he had beaten her during sex and left her with “deep bruising” on her body.
Interview after interview came out with people who damaged Ghomeshi’s character, including interviews with past coworkers and friends. A male former classmate of Ghomeshi’s even accused Ghomeshi of having “fondled” him. Everyone wanted in on the bloodbath.
The allegations against Ghomeshi are brutal. But that’s all they are: allegations. And there’s reason to suspect at least some of them are the product of collusion.
Three women brought charges against Ghomeshi. Two of them chose to remain anonymous, and the third was Canadian actress Lucy DeCoutere. DeCoutere claimed that during a date Ghomeshi choked her without her consent to the point where she “could not breathe.”
The other women’s stories were distinctly similar. All three stories detail the women being attacked in the middle of a date by Ghomeshi without their consent, same with many of the media accusations. How could so many seemingly unconnected women come up with such similar stories about him? Surely, this must mean Ghomeshi is guilty?
This is actually one of the reasons that makes me question the allegations against Ghomeshi. Because there is an explanation as to why so many “unconnected” women would raise such similar stories against him. They weren’t unconnected.
In an article for Toronto Life, Leah McLaren writes:
“DeCoutere, who was the highest-profile of Jian’s alleged victims to come forward, became a point person for others who wanted to tell their story but couldn’t bring themselves to do it publicly. The way she described it to me, she co-ordinated a covert network of women who have spent the last seven months sharing their assault stories with each other.”
This was premeditation. The women had discussed their stories and had plenty of time to make them align. Perhaps they were colluding to destroy Ghomeshi. Or perhaps it was as simple as a support network for abused women. Either way the idea that these women were unconnected no longer holds true, dispelling at least one of the arguments against Ghomeshi.
There’s something else, too, something else that has me convinced of Ghomeshi’s innocence, at least regarding these accounts.
All of the women who accused Ghomeshi continued to treat him positively after their alleged abuse. DeCoutere sent Ghomeshi a raunchy email which said “You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to f--- your brains out” the day after she had allegedly been choked.
One of the anonymous complainants stated that she had a “sexual encounter” with Ghomeshi days after he had allegedly assaulted her. The other anonymous complainant had sent flirtatious messages to Ghomeshi after her alleged assault, and had even sent him a picture of her in a bikini.
All three complainants conveniently failed to remember these actions when they took the stand.
And how are these “victims” of Ghomeshi’s doing today?
Well, Lucy DeCoutere enjoyed a surge of media attention and gained 25,000 Twitter followers after she publicized her allegations against Ghomeshi. DeCoutere bragged to a friend that she was “to sexual assault what David Beckham was to Armani underwear”. If her experience is anything to judge by, they’re doing just fine.
Yesterday, the court heard closing arguments from the Crown and defense. In the Crown’s closing arguments they addressed the flirtatious messages sent by the complainants, stating “How someone should react after the fact should not be considered”. Ghomeshi’s lawyer Marie Henein closed the defense’s side of the case by stating “All three complainants withheld information from the police and from the Crown and from the court… We were not going to hear the truth.”
There’s no doubt that women have left his bedroom with bruises, as Ghomeshi admittedly enjoys BDSM and rough sex, a fetish that is more commonplace than people think. So the question here is whether the aspects of the accounts were consensual or happened at all.
The messages sent by the complainants are the only reliable evidence given as to whether Ghomeshi’s behaviour was consensual, and they strongly support the defense’s case. The only other evidence provided about the alleged assaults is testimony that has been proven to be riddled with lies.
As usual, the press and public refuse to accept the fact that the real victim isn’t always the person who pressed charges. People lie, and yes, women lie.
The case reminds me of the trial of Gregory Alan Elliott. Jian too was criminally charged by people who may have colluded to keep their stories straight. He too lost his job as a result of the trial. He too has suffered enormous damage to his reputation. Like Elliott, the legal process has cost Ghomeshi dearly.
I can’t say I like Ghomeshi much. I don’t have an affinity for cocky male feminists who espouse progressive rhetoric and live off tax dollars. I also find his proclivities both inside and outside of the bedroom disturbing.
I won’t say that I think everyone who has come forward is a liar either, I don’t know that. If the complainants are telling the truth, I hope they find the evidence necessary to convict him.
But everything we’ve seen in court suggests that Jian Ghomeshi is not guilty.
**This column has been edited to clarify facts of Ghomeshi’s alleged conduct and the sequence of events**