I am possibly beating a dead horse here but I did happen to say only today that, “I love to poke the bear, push people’s buttons, and can’t let sleeping dogs lie.” And really I’ll beat this horse until it doesn’t feel necessary anymore.
This week has been strange. I’ve found myself checking Twitter feeds, newspapers, and blogs constantly, more than I have in awhile. Swallowed by the dialogue, the facts coming to light, I can’t seem to stop with the Jian Ghomeshi story.
Yesterday my boyfriend asked me why this story in particular was so interesting for me and, I think, it’s because it’s so close to home. Most of the stories I’ve followed that deal with sexual assault, rape culture, and victim blaming come from somewhere else and deal with people I don’t feel I know. That is not the case here. This time the story is not only coming from my country and from my city, it is dealing with someone that I and so many others thought they knew.
We couldn’t have even predicted how wrong we were.
I’ve come to expect the comments, the backlash, the victim blaming that occurs in stories like this. Every single article someone is asking why these girls didn’t go to the police, why they’ve waited years, blamed them for trying to get something out of this, and simply saying, “You went to a grown man’s house, what did you expect?”
What did they expect? Well, for one, no matter what community they are part of, BDSM or otherwise, they likely didn’t expect to be involved with any of those practises without their consent. They also probably didn’t expect to be hit in the head, forced to perform oral sex, or be aggressively and violently penetrated with that grown man’s fingers. They probably didn’t expect to cry or leave his house feeling grimy, blaming themselves more than you ever could.
I wrote a short essay a couple weeks ago for, oddly enough, the CBC’s writing contest about belonging. At the beginning I reference a time when someone I was seeing slapped me in the face while we were fooling around. I want to be clear that I do not even remotely believe that this situation was even close to what these nine women dealt with at Ghomeshi’s house, it was much less harrowing. But it was upsetting, I felt like shit, and not one part of me felt like I should tell anyone. I didn’t tell my best friend, I didn’t tell anyone for years. I didn’t tell anyone until I felt that I had gotten over it and it became an abstract, outside situation. I think of how those few moments felt and try to multiply them by a hundred in an attempt to understand how these women felt but still can’t fathom it.
What I do understand is that you feel like telling someone is uncomfortable, frightening, and like, if you do, it will prevent you from just getting over it. And you don’t want to answer questions like, “What did you expect?”
I have been proud of my city and country this week. I have watched people take the sides of the victim, I have seen petitions go up supporting the victims, I’ve watched the tsunami of support Ghomeshi had on Sunday subside with incredible force over the next couple of days. And now, today, the CBC has told us that the evidence Ghomeshi referenced of consensual acts is the very reason they made the decision to terminated him. They did this because they saw it as evidence of him causing physical injury to a woman and they would not stand behind that.
So yes, I am proud. And somehow, in all of this, I feel comforted to see people rallying around victims for once. But if you are one of the people asking what these women expected, assuming that they are telling their stories for personal gain, I want you to think long and hard about your values.
And I want you to ask yourself one thing: If your sister, daughter, mother, or female friend came to you and told you that they had been assaulted, what would you say? How would you feel?
That is how you should be reacting every time.