My Perspective - At best a creep


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner

Less than a week, that was all the time it took.  In fact, it only took five days for Jian Ghomeshi to go from a Canadian superstar to a Halloween costume, and a scary one at that.

On Sunday, Oct. 26, when the CBC announced that it had fired the popular host of the program Q, thousands of fans came to Ghomeshi’s defence.  Within hours, Ghomeshi put forward his version of events– that he had been fired due to his  “adventurous” sexual preferences that included consensual BDSM relationships. 

Shortly thereafter, the Toronto Star published a story that had been almost six months in the works. In the story, three women claimed that they had been slapped and punched, grabbed by the hair, grabbed around the neck, choked and been subjected to verbal abuse by Ghomeshi. These women, who remained anonymous, were initially painted as jilted exes or profiteers. 

But then more women came forward.

On Oct. 29, one of the women who spoke to the Star was on CBC Radio 1’s As It Happens. On Oct. 30, Canadian actress Lucy DeCoutere and Toronto lawyer and author Reva Seth both alleged that Ghomeshi had assaulted them about a decade ago.

As the week progressed, more women came forward. By week’s end, the number was up to nine. 

Within the close knit Canadian arts community, people came forward saying that Ghomeshi’s “weirdness” around women was well known.  Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin wrote that those in the “wide but ankle deep musical pond” knew about Jian. A friend from Toronto, who is involved in the arts, shared an essay written by a friend. “Every girl in Toronto knows a girl who Jian has choked…Which isn’t exactly true, but it makes the point. That this person was aggressive was not a mystery, these revelations are not a surprise to many people somehow associated with Toronto arts and culture,” the woman wrote.

Ghomeshi hasn’t been officially charged, although he is under investigation as three women have come forward to Toronto Police. The allegations haven’t been proven in court.

Regardless of Ghomeshi’s criminal guilt or innocence, the stories that are coming out paint a portrait of a man who is at best a creep and at worst a dangerous predator who preyed on the weak.

The speed at which the tide of public opinion changed was dizzying. After Monday, it was hard to find anyone supportive of Ghomeshi. Throughout last week, his Facebook page was losing about 9,000 “likes” a day. 

The story has opened a bigger debate about sexual assault, power dynamics and the reasons why many women who are victimized choose not to report their attack to the authorities. Statistics Canada figures show that most years, 500,000 women say they’ve been touched, grabbed or forced to do something sexually against their will. At one point, Statistics Canada asked women if they had ever been sexually assaulted– 39 per cent said that they had. 

Despite this frequency, only one in 10 women report the crime to police.  The reasons for this underreporting are varied and interesting.  While most people who have their home broken into file a police report, most women who are victimized sit down, shut up and whisper to friends to avoid “Jian”. The reason for this likely has something to do with the perpetrators of sexual assaults. Statistics show that 82 per cent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. While some punk kid may have keyed your car, friends, family members and acquaintances are the most likely perpetrators of sexual violence. It’s much harder to report these people to the police. In many ways, Ghomeshi fell into this category. Everyday, we invited him into our homes. He represented the CBC brand and what could be more safe than that?

This story does give hope to those victimized by predators. Nine average women, seven of them anonymous, can bring to light the actions of one of Canada’s biggest stars. The story has spawned hashtags in support of victims. It gives us hope that the Canadian public doesn’t want to turn a blind eye to abuse. 

Finally, this story serves as an ever-important reminder to all of us. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and keep yourself safe.