A woman stood before court on Monday to give testimony regarding the alleged sexual assault she survived 13 years ago. She faced an infamous lawyer ready to tear her words apart; unprecedented amounts of media attention, both in and out of the courtroom; and Jian Ghomeshi, the man she accused of punching her in the head and throwing her out “like trash.”
This, no doubt, must have been a daunting day for the woman, regardless of how much she, or her lawyer, prepared herself. Nevertheless, Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno felt the need to critique this woman as if she were an actor reading from a script, instead of a complainant sharing a traumatic experience with the world.
The problems started before the article did, with the disturbing headline, “First Ghomeshi witness suffers self-inflicted cuts.” DiManno begins her column by calling the woman “burnt toast,” claiming her credibility has gone up in flames. Later in the article, she points out that the woman only came forward with her story after the Star published its report on the sexual assault accusations, and that she went to the Star first instead of the police. DiManno ends by noting that the woman turned down a publicist’s request to represent her, and then says, “Doing just fine on her own, she was. Not so fine now.”
The implications in this article are very clear: it’s her fault. She isn’t credible and just wanted attention. These implications are obvious not only because of how blatantly DiManno’s writing transgresses any sense of decency (she seems to find a perverse sense of pleasure in the woman’s difficulties on the stand), but also because they are common. Far too common, in fact, as they seem to come up every time a powerful man is accused of a sexual crime.
But the trend extends beyond the Ghomeshis of the world, as 78 percent of sexual assaults in Canada aren’t reported to the police. The reasons vary, but they tend to focus on the survivor thinking no one will believe them, that they will be blown off or that they will be blamed for what they suffered. This is called re-victimization, and DiManno has been angered by it in the past, according to her column.
In the present, however, DiManno avoids the reality survivors face when she sneers at the fact that it took the woman 13 years to come forward. DiManno ignores the difficulties police present to survivors when she acts surprised the woman didn’t go to them first. And, when DiManno says she has “fumed over the re-victimization of victims” in the past, she ignores how journalists often lead the charge.
Why did it take the woman 13 years to come forward? I wonder.