I am seriously struggling with the work place harassment and sexual harassment issues that have erupted like a volcano releasing pent-up frustrations about both how women are treated by some men in our society, and the inadequacy of our legal system.
Women, or men for that matter, that have assaulted or harassed need to know that they can avail of system that will take their allegations seriously. They need to know that they will not be dismissed out of hand, shunned in future or re-victimized. Squaring that with a justice system that errors on the side of giving the accused the benefit of the doubt is very difficult.
I initially reacted to the CBC’s outright expulsion of Jian Ghomeshi with outrage. It seemed like overkill. The line between crime and sexual bliss present some cloudy waters. Surely, I thought, he was part of a conspiracy, the victim of a relationship that had soured.
That was until a steady stream of reputable women came forward with similar and independent revelations of their experience with Ghomeshi. Individually, every incident created a he says, she says situation. Collectively, they showed an inescapable pattern that went far beyond a misinterpretation of intentions. The hurting of women is not basic to the sexual pleasure of men.
The outing of Ghomeshi was valid and necessary – women really could not count on the justice system to intervene or protect them. The preponderance of evidence is more than ample to confirm that he is an assaulter.
These revelations reminded me of how the serial abuse of Roman Catholic Priests went unbelieved for generations. Surely a man of the cloth was beyond reproach. Every victim was tormented, abused and powerless. Individually, they were easy to dismiss or hush-up. It was not until one brave sole sought justice that a torrent of was released tearing the scab of the hidden wounds of hundreds of victims.
I can, not only imagine how it would feel to be a victim of the evil of men like this, I have experienced it. There never was the fear of being believed, just the shame and the labeling. Great manipulators use shame, threats, fear, embarrassment and doubt to re-victimize. You learn to internalize, to balance, to hate and resent yourself – as much as the perpetrator. That is, until you can no longer balance it and the damage takes even more of your soul and your mind.
Rape and sexual harassment are real. There is a real chill in the air. Has hysteria gripped the nation? Can we even have a sensible conversation about the provocative subject of harassment?
Can men who do not agree with extraordinary adjustments to the notion that Justice is blind even participate?
This defensive mind-set is at the heart of the escalating battle over what is harassment, how we deal with it and the rights of the accused and the accuser.