Wednesday, 6 April 2016

u mad sexual assault victim?

Judge Horkins, in issuing the Ghomeshi ruling, took a real interest in how angry the complainants were. He used the word "animus" to describe their feelings towards him. In my first post about this ruling, I called paragraph 60 of the ruling the "crown jewel" but having not read the whole ruling, I should have stopped myself, because paragraph 136 absolutely takes the cake:
[136] Each complainant in this case engaged in conduct regarding Mr. Ghomeshi, after the fact, which seems out of harmony with the assaultive behaviour ascribed to him. In many instances, their conduct and comments were even inconsistent with the level of animus exhibited by each of them, both at the time and then years later. In a case that is entirely dependent on the reliability of their evidence standing alone, these are factors that cause me considerable difficulty when asked to accept their evidence at full value.
One sentence at a time.
 "Each complainant in this case engaged in conduct regarding Mr. Ghomeshi, after the fact, which seems out of harmony with the assaultive behaviour ascribed to him."
In plain language: "Each woman did things with Ghomeshi after the assault that I don't think a person who had been assaulted would do."

Yes, that's what it says. It says that Horkins knows how women who have been sexually assaulted by men behave, and that three women in his court didn't fit the bill. The women wrote Ghomeshi kind and even sexy emails. They kissed him. One of them even had consensual sexual contact with him after.

Anyone who thinks that the victim of a sexual assault would not do these things - anyone who thinks that these things call the veracity of testimony about assault into question - needs to resign as a judge right this minute. A judge who presides over sexual assault trials can be forgiven for not being a psychologist or a social worker, but they can't be forgiven for thinking they know how people who have assaulted behave when in fact they don't know shit and our culture has given the plenty of opportunities to figure out that they don't know shit.
"In many instances, their conduct and comments were even inconsistent with the level of animus exhibited by each of them."
In plain language: ?!?!?

What does that mean? As written it looks like he is saying their actions were inconsistent with their feelings. As a person who has no way to know their feelings aside from watching their actions, that makes no sense. If we think of "conduct and comments" as a callback to the previous sentence, then he's saying that a woman who wrote kind or sexual emails, or who kissed or had other sexual conduct with a man who assaulted her ought not be angry about the assault. Maybe she had it coming?

Is there some other way to read this that I'm missing? It could be read as merely stating that their conduct after the fact never gave Ghomeshi a clue as to how angry they were, but that would be completely irrelevant to the last sentence of the paragraph - you aren't legally required to tell someone you are angry at them before going to the police to report a crime they committed.

I'm trying to be charitable, but the only reading I can make sense of is a big "u mad bro?" aimed sexual assault victims. With that paragraph, Horkins isn't just saying that he thinks Ghomeshi ought to be acquitted because the evidence doesn't overcome reasonable doubt, he is saying that he believes Ghomeshi never assaulted these women. Otherwise, how could it be hard for him to understand them being angry? What level of anger is too much for a person who suddenly choked you while you were kissing, or who hit you or pulled your hair?
"In a case that is entirely dependent on the reliability of their evidence standing alone, these are factors that cause me considerable difficulty when asked to accept their evidence at full value."
In plain language: "In other parts of this ruling I stress that it is difficult to believe the witnesses because they contradict themselves and show a willingness to lie under oath. Just in case you were wondering, though, if they had been entirely forthcoming from the beginning, I'd still be acquitting Ghomeshi because of their conduct after the fact, even though I, as a judge, know that is totally irrelevant."

How else can I read this paragraph? He doesn't think their after-the-fact actions are congruent with people who have been assaulted. He doesn't think they should be so angry at Ghomeshi. He doesn't think they can be believed because of their anger, because of their after-the-fact actions. They lied because they thought if they told the truth no one would believe them. In paragraph 136 Horkins tells them they were right.

If there is a message to women out of the Ghomeshi verdict, it is definitely "do not come forward." But not just because it is hard to prosecute or because your life will be put on trial. Stay silent because all of the classic clich├ęs about how victims are judged in sexual assault cases can be trotted out in a sexual assault ruling, and every legal expert any mainstream media site can find will call the ruling principled and call the judge fair minded.

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