Opinion Column

Brave women deserve better from justice system

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Jian Ghomeshi.
Postmedia Network

Jian Ghomeshi. Postmedia Network

“There’s a whole community of women who feel violated by the publicity around this trial who have had their own experiences of sexual assault.” — Amanda Dale, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic for women survivors of violence

The trial of former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi has been shocking — not only for the allegations of sexual violence, but because two women testifying subsequently had flirtatious, friendly contact with him afterwards.

Why would any woman who was allegedly slapped in the face, punched, rammed against a wall or choked have anything more to do with any man who assaulted her?

Sadly and stunningly, the evidence in a Toronto courtroom, from actress Lucy DeCoutere and another witness who cannot be named, is not unusual.

Those who work with victims of violence know that women who have been assaulted have complex emotions that can lead to them continuing a relationship with their abuser.

And as DeCourtere testified in court last week, after being confronted with friendly and sexually suggestive emails she sent Ghomeshi: “That still doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Ghomeshi assaulted me. Women can be assaulted by someone and still have positive feelings for them afterwards, that’s why there are emotionally abusive relationships that continue.”

That contradiction is something I learned as a volunteer fundraiser with a Toronto shelter for battered women, where I talked to counsellors and also victims who escaped abusive situations.

Unfortunately, it can take a long time for some women to leave a violent relationship.

“People wind up blaming themselves for the abusive behaviour of their partners. They convince themselves if they approach the person differently, maybe they won’t be abused,” according to Craig Malkin, a Harvard Medical School psychologist.

So we owe a debt of gratitude to DeCoutere for having the courage to step forward, be identified and defend herself in public — regrettable when she is the witness, not the accused — but necessary.

That’s because in 2014, Statistics Canada said that 9,053 women in B.C. reported intimate partner violence to police — across the country there were 69,848 cases.

Canada needs a better way for women who have been assaulted to bring their attackers to justice — without being re-victimized in court.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman 

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