I, along with many other women in Canada sit with a knot in the pit of our stomachs today as we learned about the verdict concerning Jian Ghomeshi. Some of us sit here and realize that there are major issues with the way in which we treat victims of sexual abuse and assault and that our systems are not set up to protect them.
1 in 3 girls will be the victims of sexual abused/assault in her lifetime, the majority by someone they know. 1 in 3 girls will not tell anyone it happened out of fear. 1 in 3 girls will tell but instead of going to the police, it will be handled “at home”. 1 in 3 girls will still have to have contact with their abusers at school, church, home, workplace or other “safe” place. 1 in 3 girls will never get validation for an experience that inherently changed them forever.
At seven years old I told my mom that my 16yr old uncle was touching me. I felt like what he was doing was wrong but wasn’t really sure. I felt like I would be in trouble if I told, even at 7, it occurred to me that somehow I possibly should have been able to stop it from happening.
My mother, a survivor of on-going abuse of every kind, questioned me to understand the details, which is normal, but somehow did not know how to proceed.
He didn’t deny it, yet he wasn’t kicked out of our home. He was given boundaries in our home but I still had to sit beside him at dinner every night. With the people and friends she consulted, the concern was more about him finishing school and not hindering the progress he had made going to church, “we don’t want to discourage him from being baptized”.
Why…because at 7 there were “inconsistencies” in my story. Like the fact that I said he would kiss my nose before he left the room. The abuse would happen when he was babysitting me and apparently there were times when my parents would come in from being out and they also would kiss my nose…so, this apparently created doubt. Even though he admitted to doing it…my inconsistencies created enough doubt even from myself, that it wasn’t until I was in my teens and he apologized to me at a family reunion, wanting to “finally deal with the skeletons in [his] closet” that I knew it had actually happened and it wasn’t all in my 7 year old dream world.
That same summer, I would have been turning 8, I was sent to visit my aunt and when I got home he was gone. I was sent away before he was sent away. I know for certainty that this event and how it was handled changed me and much of my life. And it taught me the unfortunate truths at a young age about how we as a society deal with these serious incidents. We don’t.
Today our stomachs are sick because 1 in 3 of us have had to live in a society where our abusers are given a pass because we didn’t present with a black and blue face and could offer the opportunity for a rape kit. We are saddened that 1 in 3 of us, regardless of age is put in the situation to have to “prove” beyond a reasonable doubt that we are in fact telling the truth. We are the 1 in 3 who have sat in police stations telling a police officer, probably male, what happened, only to be told “I believe you but I don’t think you would win this in court based on what you have told me” (this happened to me twice). We are the 1 in 3 that has the hard work to rebuild what was taken with the very first inappropriate and/or non-consenting touch.
We are now the 1 in 3 mothers who are raising daughters and sons – who today were reminded that our children are no more safe than we were. That if our girls happen to wear bikinis, a short top that shows their mid-drift or tight pants – all those choices will cast doubt on whether they gave consent for a sexual encounter. That innocent flirting will be scrutinized and blamed for offering ‘mixed messages’. Today, we received the message loud and clear that unless we as victims show up in hospital with physical evidence of assault, it’s likely we are making it up, blowing it out of proportion or are too sensitive. The unfortunate truth for most of the 1 in 3 is that these are not viscous violent attacks, these are quiet smothering assaults.
Today, is a sad day because 1 in 3 girls was told she is not protected under our legal system.
Horkins added that while the evidence in the case raises a reasonable doubt, it “is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened.”