Monday, 8 February 2016

Lessons from the Ghomeshi Trial

Twenty-three people have alleged experiencing harrasment, abuse or assault by Jian Ghomeshi. When the public demanded to know why the accusers never went to the police, some accusers went to the police. Three of them are now on trial included in Jian Ghomeshi's trial for sexual assault and choking.

Complainant 1 was eviscerated on the witness stand.

Lucy DeCoutere was disemboweled on the witness stand. 

Heaven--or Ghomeshi's counsel Marie Henein--knows what will happen to Complainant 3. 

Because one thing that has been proven in court is that Ghomeshi kept the letters and emails of Complainant 1 and DeCoutere for years and years afterwards.  Jesse Brown, the freelance journalist who broke the Ghomeshi story (after Ghomeshi himself, of course), both asks and explains why.

This is a trial examining allegations of brutal sexually-charged assault committed (so far) years ago. If all twenty-three people who have alleged Ghomeshi abused or assaulted them appeared in court, each one of the twenty-three would somehow have to prove they weren't lying. But only three went to court, and anyone who has behaved crazily about/because of a man or written him stupid emails or letters, can now see why only three dared. 

Women used to demand their letters back when their romances ended, and gentlemen gave them back. Into the fire went the letters, and that was that. Novels written before the Sexual Revolution abound with wicked blackmailers, bounders who kept (or bought) women's silly letters and threatened to send them to their husbands. Apparently in the old days, a wife could not just say to her husband, "Listen, darling, I know it's a bore, but when I was twenty, I wrote a simply awful letter to a chap who called himself Count Batory Bourbon de Poniatowski, and now he's blackmailing me for £10,000." It is  hard to get my head around this, but apparently my grandfather was furious when he found out that Auntie was my grandmother's real mother, not her adoptive mother. The past is another country indeed. 

What the Ghomeshi trial teaches us, besides the importance of reporting brutal assaults to the police sooner rather than later, is not to write stupid letters and emails to men.  If we love to write, chances are we have already written stupid letters and emails to men. If we are lucky, the men just read the emails and erase them. If we are even luckier, they chuck our deathless prose onto the fire--but who has fires these days? 

The Ghomeshi trial has become excruciating for anyone who believes--possibly because of the, you know, 23 people who went to the media--that Ghomeshi hit women without their consent. Until Jesse Brown released a Ghomeshi email yesterday, the only correspondence we read was from Complainant 1 and Lucy DeCoutere, and their emails were, and Lucy's handwritten letter was, ovary-shrivellingly awful.  

It makes one ponder how ghastly one's own letters and emails have been. Would a scandal-hungry public think "Oh, how very delightfully Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh"or would it think "Ew"?  

How and why do women get into such terrible situations as Jesse Brown describes, and to what extent should adult women take seriously the idea that we can be "groomed" like targeted children? Where is free will in all this? When it comes to pondering one's own complicity in sexual sin, these are important questions to ask. They are less important, however, when the fists come out of nowhere, without warning, without consent. Whatever Lucy DeCoutere said or did before Ghomeshi hit and throttled her--if he did hit and throttle her--and whatever she said and did afterwards, hitting and throttling her without consent were (or would be) criminal acts. 

But as for manipulation, pick up artistry, and all the ways in which men like Ghomeshi and his ilk try to get women to do (or put up with) things the women would not have done (or put up with), there should be more conversations about them--serious conversations by churches, schools and parents, beginning with "Do these psychological methods really reduce women's freedom to make moral decisions?" and not ending with "If so, how can we teach girls and women how to guard against them?" for the ultimate question, as with rape, would be "If so, how do we convince boys and men not to employ them"?

Interesting: Henein is what we at the Abbey called a Joser-Hoser, i.e. she went to Saint Joseph Morrow Park. No surprises, however, as this is the sort of woman Catholic girls' schools like the Abbey and Morrow Park were trying to turn out in the 80s: professional, materially successful.

Update (Tuesday): Complainant 3 implodes. So many lessons in the Ghomeshi trial for both men and women:

Women's lessons:

1. Don't write men sexy emails and letters and don't send them sexy pictures of self.
2. If a man hits, strangles or suffocates you, don't send him love letters afterwards, m'kay?
3. If a man hits, strangles or suffocates you, don't be affectionate with him in any way afterwards.
4. If you break any of the above lessons, don't waive your right to be anonymous if you testify against the man in court.
5. Don't hide or lie about your relationship with the man when questioned by the police. Very, very bad and stupid.
6. Don't say, write or text anything to co-complainants you don't want repeated in court.

Men's lessons:

1. Keep all correspondence from women, just in case.*
2. If you hit, strangle or suffocate women, you may end up in court.
3. If you hit, strangle or suffocate women--or have a reputation for doing so--save your money for a top lawyer.
4. If you hit, strangle or suffocate many women--or have a reputation for doing so--you may not have to go to jail, but you will probably  lose in the court of public opinion.
5. Don't hit, strangle or suffocate women without asking their permission.
6. If you really enjoy such activities, consider psychotherapy. Therapists are cheaper than lawyers.

*As a woman it kills me to write that, but alas. I still have on file nasty emails from a man (a friend's ex-boyfriend) and he's dead


  1. An analogy to PUA techniques that I'm considering is this: martial arts. The idea behind Karate techniques (properly executed) is that the untrained opponent, once trapped, can only react according to pain points, pressure points, joint locks, etc, in a set pattern until their head is exactly where the Karateka wants it. Then comes the (intolerable) knife-hand to the nose or the (fatal) knuckles into the base of the skull. It doesn't matter the skill or strength of the opponent: they go down. I think that the mind also has pressure points, pain points, etc. And once trapped, the untrained victim to a PUA adepts reacts in a set pattern as well, regardless of inner strength. The big difference between PUA adepts and Karatekas, of course, is that Karatekas get reinforced in every lesson that starting the fight is intolerable and a fight is a last resort. To the PUA jerk it's the first.

    Note, however, neither Karate nor PUA works against a trained opponent. Is there a PUA course for girls? One day I'm going to have to read the pick-up artist (PUA) books. I'm not looking forward to it. In fact, I am somewhat nauseated at the though. However, I'm a father of a potential victim and as such, it's my obligation along with her mother to protect her and teach her.

  2. Excuse me, PUA = pick-up artist.

  3. Just the thought of Popcorn as potential victim makes a red mist form before my eyes. Naturally you will be sending her to an all-girls school with no male staff run by nuns in a small village in rural Romania.

    1. Naturally. And she's in Karate now, too. When I've gone grey, she'll defend me, too!

    2. Fantastic! I always thought the dads bringing their kids with them to the boxing gym was a great idea. Jeepers. Somehow I have got to get into shape again.

  4. Oh wow! Just read the linked news report from the trial of the complainants letters & emails. Staggering.

    Strangely, I can still see the possibility of Ghomeshi being convicted - like you say, not matter how crazy the complainants' behaviour, that does not prove Jian did or did not hit them.

    Problem is, the emails do wreck deCoutere's credibility as a witness claiming she didn't want to be hit, when she says stuff indicating she was into that kind of thing... What were they thinking???

    And her mates in Trailer Park Boys must love being described as her 'personal anvil'; they get her pay and profile, and she is being dragged down by them? Classy.

    Agree with all 'lessons' you wrote, but not Women's lesson 1 - we wouldn't know the truth if those letters weren't written. Plus it kills romance (though romance seems to not have been the point of the Ghomeshi relationships). And surely lesson #1 for Men is 'do not hit others' and lesson #2 is 'if you hit others, and are unrepentant, you will probably go to Hell'?

    The only person coming out if this with reputation intact or enhanced is Marie Henein... a triumph of catholic education eh? /sarc


    1. The listed lessons are lessons of the trial. And even though the women wrote those letters, we still don't know the truth! Complainant 1 says she wrote them so she could get him to talk to her about why he hit here---which is credible. And as for Lucy... Poor Lucy. I think he did hit her, she decided to let it slide, and then she was furious when she heard all the stories and decided to go on a campaign. Which--if he hit her and throttled her without her consent--was her right.

      I hear what you're saying about romance, but as an inveterate writer, and a woman, I really think women shouldn't write men stupid letters if we can at all help it. At very least we shouldn't write unchaste letters. Surely everyone can at least help that.

    2. Oh Marie Henein. When I was a teenager, I suspected that my school was not interested in us girls becoming saints but in becoming professionals with two children. Somewhere I have a cranky poem I wrote about this at the time. I feel now that I have subverted the whole upwardly mobile thing although I must say I feel a pang about the house in Forest Hill and the designer handbag. Of course, the Historical House blows any house in Forest Hill right out of the water, but one does sometimes wish...Sigh, sigh, sigh. Still, what's all that compared to life in Christ, eh?

  5. Ah, ok. Yes the trial lessons are grim, and still don't give the truth with enough certainty for a conviction, though it seems there should be one. It still comes down to 3 saying he hit them, and 1 saying not.

    The witnesses credibility is only really damaged by their lying/'forgetting to tell' the court about their collusion on their evidence (which is understandable given how they felt about JG, but needed to be told honestly to court).

    As for Ms Henein, I was thoroughly impressed by her achievements, but.... despite her conscience peeking out to do pro-bono work and mentor junior staff, she appears to have gained the world and lost her soul (said in non-judgemental fashion!) Perhaps she should have read your high school poem (perhaps your teachers & bishops should have!).


    Loved the Euro maps BTW.