A few days ago, I read an article regarding the Jian Ghomeshi trial and how there was a dramatic twist when Ghomeshi’s defense lawyer, Marie Henein, presented evidence showing that Lucy DeCoutere, one of three women who accused Ghomeshi of assault, contacted him a few times after the alleged assault. This is legally significant and, quite frankly, pretty great work by Marie Henein as a lawyer, because it helps discredit DeCoutere as a reliable witness since she had previously testified that she did not make any contact after the alleged assault. I cannot be mad at Henein for doing her job. What I can be angry with is the response it has received.
Sure, this may mean that DeCoutere has lied. Does this mean she lied about the whole thing? Definitely not.
Victims of assault, especially of sexual assault, don’t always stop contact afterwards and ignore the person who assaulted them. This is much harder than it sounds. Of course there are plenty of women who have sought to continue or re-connect with people in their lives, despite the fact that this person may have sexually assaulted them. This should not be surprising, and if it is, it shows a lack of awareness of the types of issues victims face regarding sexual assault. Many times it’s easier to pretend that what happened wasn’t that bad, that we sort of exaggerated it in our heads or that we just want to move on and make life ‘normal’ again, so we continue to speak to the people who hurt us to try to normalize things. We think it’ll help make us feel better, or make us stronger, to forgive and move on. Sometimes it’s a matter of just wanting to be accepted again – of not wanting someone out there to hate us, even though we should probably hate them. That’s how far many women are taught to think that their self-worth is based on the acceptance of others. Sometimes it’s just because it’s hard to avoid or leave partners, family members, co-workers, etc. This shouldn’t be so surprising.
Assuming all victims of sexual assault are able to recover from the situation by never speaking to the assaulter again is naïve. Our world, unfortunately, doesn’t work that way. It’s so much easier to pretend that things are okay, we aren’t bothered, nothing’s happened, and we can just move on. Victim blaming culture, and victim shaming culture, when it comes to sexual assault, is very much still alive.
Sure, these emails may contribute towards discrediting DeCoutere’s reliability as a witness in our judicial system, but it most definitely does not mean she was not telling the truth about her experience as a victim of assault. I’d be afraid to tell the world if I still had contact with a past abuser, as well. Look at the judgement she’s received. We need to get to a place where we can accept the truths of victims of sexual assault without invalidating their experience because we think they should have taken certain actions prior, during, or after to avoid sexual assault. It is never the victim’s fault.