Jian Ghomeshi’s trial indicates the need for a separate court to hear the testimony of women who are sexually assaulted by the men they date. Ordinary courts, jurors and judges lack the training to understand these women’s seemingly irrational and dishonest testimony.
A fair trial would require knowledge of the lasting effects of trauma on the human brain, just as The Family Court understands child development and decides “in the best interests of the child.:
I don’t know any of these women personally but in my years as a psychotherapist, I treated many women who were sexually abused by the men they chose. These women had all been sexually abused as children. (Conservative statistics say one in four North American females is sexually abused before the age of 18.) This secret epidemic is tied to the under reporting of sexual abuse. Only 3% of females who are sexually assaulted actually lay charges. The trauma to young brains resulting from child sexual abuse leaves the victims vulnerable to predatory men. The resulting shame and dissociation of traumatic memories is tied to under-reporting of sexual abuse and the inability of traumatized adult women to respond rationally to partner abuse.
The witnesses in the Ghomeshi trial have probably made it more difficult for women wanting to press charges for sexual assault in the future. The police, the women’s lawyer and the Crown all told the women to avoid talking with the press and with each other. Their refusal to comply and the resulting circus of contradictory stories further damaged their case – as well as the hope of women receiving a suitable hearing in the future.
If women are to be given a fair hearing, our courts need to realize the following:
- children blame themselves for inappropriate touching and sexual behavior on the part of trusted adults. This continues into adulthood. Adult victims of abuse try to normalize an abusive relationship by convincing themselves they love the abuser.
- Children are helpless to deal with the sexual demands of adults: they attempt to please and placate the assailant in the hope of changing his behavior and surviving the assault. Adult women, crazy as it may seem, attempt to turn the attack into a romance. They learn to dissociate, to remove themselves from the scene, as it were, and hence have “faulty memories” of a myriad of details. This too continues into adulthood.
- Sexual predators instinctively recognize and seek out vulnerable women who were traumatized as children.
Until we have a court system that is competent to hear cases of sexually assaulted women, sexual assailants will enjoy the protection of our legal system’s innocent until proven guilty standard. Of course, it is essential to our legal system that the accused are given a fair trial. This leaves us needing a court system that can somehow protect the accused and also recognize the psychological needs of the vulnerable.