By Alison Sandstrom
On Mar. 24, Justice William Horkins found Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. Over the course of the two-month long trial, Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, poked holes in the credibility of the three complainants. She roasted the women for misremembering details and for inconsistencies between their media interviews and police statements.
In his polarizing decision, Justice Horkins cautioned the courts against “applying false stereotypes concerning the expected conduct of complainants,” but also on the need to “be vigilant in avoiding the equally false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.”
Despite how the trial played out, Witness 1, also known as LR says she doesn’t regret her decision to testify. “I took one for the team. I would do it again and again. I wouldn’t want to, but I would. We can’t just be quiet and walk away.”
The woman, whose name is protected under a publication ban, is speaking out against the way the justice system and police handle sexual assault cases. On verdict day, she launched the website comingforward.ca. The site is still in its infancy, but she plans for it to soon include a forum and resources on navigating the justice system for survivors of sexual violence.
“When I went through it, I had nothing. I had no one. I had not a clue. Eventually I had lawyers, but you’re pretty much alone when you go through this process,” she says. “I want it to be a place where someone can read a story or share one, get a resource, or download a guide—a place you can go and speak to people and not feel alone.”
LR says the public response to the website has been overwhelming, and the vast majority of it positive. She has been flooded with people offering to help and sharing their own experiences of sexual assault.
“It’s sad that there’s so many stories, but I’m glad people feel like they can give them to me,” she says.
Carleton law professor Rebecca Bromwich says the Ghomeshi case is part of a larger systemic issue where complainants are disenfranchised and retraumatized.
LR says she believes if she’d had more information before she reported the assault, the case would have gone differently for her.
“When the police don’t tell you what the rules of the game are, you can start failing from the minute you walk in there,” she says.
LR is also advocating for changes to the way the justice system tries sexual assault cases—a position that was echoed at We Believe Survivor rallies across the country last week.
“This antiquated method is absolutely the wrong way to do it. To me, it seems like it should be somewhere along the lines of a civil suit meets restorative justice,” she says.
LR is planning to lift the publication ban on her identity this week. She says the decision is easy.
“If I’m going to be an advocate for this cause, which I am, I can’t do it in a trench coat and glasses.”
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