This isn’t a post I’m happy I’m having to write. I’ve been putting it off for a while and thought I could maybe even get away with not addressing it, but, after feeling physically ill over the whole situation, I felt like maybe putting my thoughts into words would help bring me some relief.
There have been a couple of similar stories in pop culture recently that have caught the attention of many – Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby are both facing allegations of sexual assault from a number of women. Jian Ghomeshi was the keynote speaker at my college graduation – in fact, his speech partly inspired me to resign from modelling (which I did the day after). Even though I was inspired by him, I didn’t follow his work or feel like I knew who he was as a person – but a lot of people who were fans of his career did feel that way and many have mixed reactions over these allegations. Some are turning against him and others are defending him by attempting to discredit the women coming forward. While part of me is a believer in the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mandate of our judicial system, another part of me says that, by believing he is innocent until proven guilty, I’m saying there’s a chance these women could be lying about being taken advantage of, of being violated, traumatized, and humiliated. So I don’t believe that Jian Ghomeshi is innocent. The same way I don’t believe that Bill Cosby is innocent. Neither have been convicted for a crime in the court of law, but they both have been, on some level, been convicted in the court of public opinion.
The thing about both of these situations that bothers me the most, is that the victims are being interrogated more than the (alleged) offenders. We have turned against the women for tainting our beloved opinions of these two men, as though it’s the fault of the victims that Mr. Ghomeshi and Mr. Cosby committed these heinous crimes. We are asking ‘why?’ Why did it take the victims so long to come forward? Why now? Why not then? Yet we don’t see that by asking these questions, we’re giving ourselves answers.
THIS is why.
WE are why.
Those who are questioning the credibility of the victims and blaming the victims and putting the negative spotlight on the victims for coming forward, for being invasive during a difficult time, for forcing the victims to relive these traumatic events over and over and over again as they beg for someone to listen – THAT is why it took them so long to come forward. The judicial system, the public, we do not have our victims’ best interests at heart. And when we live in a world where 1 in 4 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, yet only 6% of all victims will report sexual assaults to the police, I really believe we need to.