One question keeps getting asked about the Jian Ghomeshi situation….
“Why didn’t the victims go to the police?”
I understand why people are asking this. In fact, I asked it myself at first.
And then I read the stories of young women who had entry-level jobs in media. Women who hoped to make something of themselves. Women who were excited that this “big star” was paying attention to them.
Women who thought their careers would be ruined if they said anything, and I got it.
I thought about my own story.
In October of 1991, I broke up with my verbally abusive boyfriend.
On the same night, he attacked me. I was in a truck with a male friend, and my ex drove his car into my friend’s truck SEVEN times–while we were driving. My ex only stopped when my friend managed to flag down the police.
A high-speed chase ensued before the cops were able to catch my ex-boyfriend.
My friend and I went to the police station to give statements.
There were at least three other guys in my ex-boyfriend’s car when he did this. Presumably, they gave statements as well, and I heard through a third party that they were horrified by the guy’s actions–that they hadn’t seen it coming.
My spine was fractured in two places due to this little “adventure.” For years, I couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down in the same position for more than five minutes without extreme pain. A doctor told me I’d be in a wheelchair within a few years, but thankfully she was wrong.
I’ve done a lot to heal myself through exercise and healthy living, but I still suffer from chronic back and neck pain, as well as brutal migraines. That will never change.
So there you have it.
My ex wasn’t famous. He wasn’t a beloved media celebrity with the court of public opinion on his side.
He broke my spine in two places. I reported it to the police–several people did, and the police witnessed part of this mess themselves when they had to chase him down.
And what happened to this guy? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He counsels troubled youth now–how’s that for chilling?
I have nothing against police officers. I count some of them among my closest friends, and I realize they have a very difficult job to do.
But if the attack on me–which was extremely public and violent–didn’t have any repercussions for the perpetrator, how could we expect any of these women to put so much on the line and maybe still not get any justice in return?
Sometimes going to the police just doesn’t work.
That said, I encourage anyone who has been abused or assaulted to file a report.
Just don’t point to a lack of reports as evidence the women are lying.
I just listened to the interview with actress Lucy DeCoutere, which points to some of the reasons why women don’t tell anyone when they are assaulted. There are so many reasons: embarrassment that you trusted this guy, being polite (seriously), knowing people will judge your actions, etc. I and the majority of the women I know have been assaulted more than once in their lives and most have even been the victim of a violent sexual assault including myself – and almost none of these have been reported due to feeling at fault due to alcohol, being in a relationship with the attacker or just general fear of what will happen. The one I can think of that was reported, the police said they knew of the guy due to past incidents, but nothing happened to him whatsoever. If even my quite average circle of friends have experienced this, I can’t imagine how many unreported cases are floating around out there.
Thank you for the very brave, but important story to tell!
Thank you for telling your story, Anonymous. I’m so sorry that this happened to you and your friends. If there is a silver lining in this very dark cloud, I hope it’s that women will start banding together against monsters like this–openly, publicly.
A lot has to change for women to feel safe enough for that to happen, but I have hope. We have to hope things will get better, right?
Thank you for sharing your story with me.
Thank your for sharing your story, however, I find it hard to believe that nothing happened to this guy.
You don’t state any reasons as to why nothing happened and perhaps for everyone’s benefit and the women who do suffer abuse, you can let them know.
Hearing your story and reading absolutely nothing happened in the end will only serve to discourage women from making a report.
Nothing did happen, but I don’t know why. Maybe it was because we were both teenagers at the time. All I know is that the police took my statement and I never heard from anyone about it again, except for the auto insurance company that did a full investigation in order to minimize the amount of my settlement.
I don’t post this to discourage women, although I realize it might have that effect–I posted it to show why women might be reluctant to go to the police. Almost every woman has already heard a story similar to this, unfortunately. While the attack on me was dramatic, the fact that nothing happened to the guy who hurt me is nothing new.
Thanks for reading, and for commenting.
Thank you for sharing your story, Holli! I think we really underestimate the power of the people around us. In the case of Jian, it seems like it was an open secret in many circles that he’s a “bad date”, though not to the extent that’s come out. When someone has direct or perceived power over you, acting is extremely risky.
Hearing about your situation is heartbreaking and upsetting, and it’s crazy that nothing happened to your ex. When you went to the police, did the officer you spoke to asked you if you wanted to file charges? Or if you wanted to get a protection order?
It sounds like this was treated like a traffic offence instead of spousal violence, possibly because you didn’t know the full extent that your back was injured at the time to add that to what you presented? Even if this isn’t the case, it’s insane that it happened.
I hope that our system is getting better, and that if one of these women did go to the police that a protection order would have been immediately put in place by our new laws, and that the other women who know about Jian would have come forward. But the women impacted are still too afraid to identify themselves, which is horrible and says a lot about our society and how we view violence against women.
The power structures relationships between friends, families, co-workers and industry peers are complicated and clearly not to be underestimated. I just hope that we invest in more ways to support and amplify the voices of women and other people our system under serves. It’s clearly urgently needed.
Thanks for the great reply, Kyla! I agree that filing any kind of report feels risky, and I don’t blame the women for not pursuing formal charges. After thinking about it for awhile, I have a greater understanding of the position they were in. The position Jian unfortunately put them in by abusing his power.
No one asked me if I wanted to file charges or if I wanted a protection order, even though our relationship and the history of his past abuse was covered in my statement. I have no idea why those options weren’t presented to me, but as a teenager, I wasn’t about to question the police.
I was in shock right after the accident, so I didn’t know that I was injured. But even without the injury, I believe this should have been handled differently.
I have those hopes as well. I really, really hope we see positive change as a result of all this.
Thanks for taking the time to write. xoxo
I’m certain that a large majority of violent crime is due to some male losing control. If that happens, the penalties should be swift and harsh. People need to know that their actions have consequences; there certainly are consequences for the victims, who have to live with the physical, emotional, and psychological damage for years.
Thanks for commenting, Ace, and welcome to my blog. I completely agree. If the penalties had been harsher back then, he may not have grown into a man who continues to stalk and abuse women.
Or maybe he would have. But it would have been nice if someone had at least tried to change the pattern.
Well said. I think there’s a gender-based victim-blaming mentality underlying society. It’s not always obvious, but it’s there in every kind of assault on a woman. If women don’t blame themselves, there are always people to do it for them–not just men, but other women, too. The chorus of “you shouldn’t have been out alone at night; you shouldn’t have dressed like that; you shouldn’t have led him on if you weren’t going to follow through” is inevitable. Society is much more concerned with telling women how not to provoke a rape than it is with deterring and punishing rapists.
What that guy did to you was horrible. Attempted murder wouldn’t have been an unreasonable charge. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks, Chris. I agree. I’m not sure how it became the woman’s fault whenever a woman is victimized, but that attitude is definitely prevalent.
And I agree with you about attempted murder. I think those charges should have been laid as well. I have no idea why they weren’t.
What I find unbelievable about the story isn’t that the police did nothing. I’ve had experience with this and not just the idiot on the cell phone. It’s the inaction of everyone else when these things happen and go unpunished by authorities.
As a society, we are far too tolerant of unprovoked violence. Someone should have beat that guys ass. I know, I know, that’s not how civilized society behaves but there is nothing civilized about what he did. Some times the answer to violence is someone bigger.
I am sorry that happened to you and I am sorry we live in a society that makes any victim feel there is no reason to speak up, especially when that reason is that the authorities won’t do anything.
Thanks so much for commenting, Frank, and welcome back. I’ve missed you!
The sad thing is, this guy continued to stalk me for months after the attack. I didn’t call the police then because I was terrified of provoking him further. I felt–and still feel–very lucky to be alive. There is no doubt in my mind that he wanted me dead.
My friends knew what was going on, but all of them were afraid to confront him. No one wanted to bring his rage upon himself.
I appreciate your kind words. Thanks for being here.
Holli I am so sorry for your awful experience. His lack of inhibition manifesting in rage and you as the object of it is frightening as is the lack of action of the police putting him behind bars.
There is something to be said for claiming your experience but not letting it claim you.
As women, we MUST speak out and use whatever means to show that we will not allow such behaviour. The perpetrator must be named and shamed.
Thanks for your kind words, Susan. I agree. I’ve yet to ever name my abuser publicly, because I don’t want him coming after me again. I don’t want anything to do with him.
It’s not just women who don’t come forward, it’s anyone who is a victim of sexual violence or aggression. Whether it’s a full grown man, woman, or a child. I was molested as a child and didn’t tell a single soul until I was almost in my 20’s. My parents still don’t know what happened and I don’t want them to think it was a fault of their own that they couldn’t protect me. It’s nobody’s fault except for the disgusting people who think they have control or dominion over others in that particular way.
You’re right, and I certainly didn’t mean to devalue anyone’s experience. I was simply replying to the Jian Ghomeshi situation and all of the skepticism the women have faced because they didn’t go to the police.
I’m very, very sorry about what happened to you. Anyone who would hurt or molest a child is the lowest possible life form. Thanks for speaking up here.
This is the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night as a father. I cannot believe the callous nature some men have towards women, yet they claim to love their daughters, significant other, etc. I’ve told my wife over and over that if anyone were to attack one of my kids like that, the police wouldn’t need to arrest them. Frank’s right, it’s disgusting that society tolerates this kind of behavior so much, which gives men a free pass to abuse.
It is really disgusting, I agree. And I hope nothing like this every happens to one of your children, but society’s attitudes towards women (and as my commenter above said, any victim of abuse) needs to change.
That said, maybe I’m naive, but I still think there are way more good men than bad. That’s been my experience, and I’m sticking to it. 😉 We just need to throw out the few bad apples and stop protecting them!
Thanks for commenting. Sorry I’ve been a bit neglectful on that front lately–I’ll get back to it.
. . . . It doesn’t seem to matter how often (way too, too bloody often!) I hear stories similar to yours, they never fail to horrify me and practically render me incoherent. I’m so glad (obviously) that you not only survived–you thrived and didn’t let your horrifying (ongoing!) experience poison you against all men. I agree with you that good men outweigh the bad–and as the good guys here have shown, I think both women AND men are starting to see that we all need to speak up and say certain behaviours are unacceptable when we see them–big or small. I understand the “silent bystander” thing though–some actions/attitudes are so shocking and catch you so by surprise in some people that the moment can pass before your brain catches up with what it’s just seen. I saw a Ted Talk on the topic “Violence Against Women–it’s a Men’s Issue” by Jackson Katz. He brought up some really good points.
Thanks for commenting and for the kind words, Ev. I agree. I get the bystander thing too–sometimes I’ve watched someone struggle with a door like I’m in some sort of trance, only realizing later that I should have helped and kicking myself for it.
Soon after I moved here, a woman was stabbed to death by her ex as she ran down our busiest street in broad daylight. Tons of people saw the attack, but no one moved to help her until it was too late. One of the bystanders said he didn’t see a knife–“I thought he was just hitting her.”
And that makes it okay?
I’ve never forgotten that–or her.