On Ghomeshi, our conversation needs to extend beyond ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’

Jian Ghomeshi arrives at a Toronto courthouse March 24, 2016 for the verdict in his trial. (Image/Canadian Press)
Jian Ghomeshi arrives at a Toronto courthouse March 24, 2016 for the verdict in his trial. (Image/Canadian Press)

This morning, Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges — four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. This verdict, unfortunately, is not particularly surprising. Not only are men rarely held to account for the abuse they perpetrate on women, but the witnesses were not adequately prepared or supported before the trial. Typically, the trial was rife with victim-blaming, as Ghomeshi’s lawyer worked to destroy the victims’ credibility.

Ontario court Judge William Horkins said he could not rely on the three complainants: “What is troubling is not the lack of clarity, but the shifting facts from one telling to the next.” Putting aside the fact that it is doubtful any victim of assault will remember the exact incidence[s] clearly and that mistakes will almost always be made in retelling our stories (and that this reality should have no bearing on whether or not we are believed), it’s fair to say that mistakes were made during the trial that, in the end, hurt the victims’ case.

What we know about Ghomeshi — that he is sadistic; that he is a classic abuser, grooming and manipulating his victims, painting them as jealous liars after the fact; that he is a bully and a narcissist — unfortunately didn’t come into play in terms of Horkins‘ decision. My opinion is that, whether or not the judge was able to determine, without a doubt, that the stories told by the complainants were wholly true, Ghomeshi’s behaviour shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is an abusive man. It is perfectly clear that, despite discrepancies, the women aren’t lying about the violence he perpetrated against them. Even Horkins understands that “not guilty” does not necessarily mean “innocent”: “My conclusion that the evidence in this case raises a reasonable doubt is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened,” he said.

To me, and to most other feminists in Canada, the small details don’t matter. What Ghomeshi’s victims remember, what they discussed with others, and what their responses to Ghomeshi’s behaviour were don’t make a shred of difference in terms of our understanding of both what the victims went through and continue to go through, as well as in terms of our opinion of Ghomeshi.

It is for this reason that I didn’t feel particularly gutted this morning, when I heard the verdict. In part, because I was prepared for this — the trial had not gone well and I have low expectations in terms of justice in these kinds of cases — but also because I don’t fully believe this decision lets Ghomeshi off the hook.

What was most traumatic about my experience coming forward about abuse was not that my abuser wasn’t jailed (I didn’t file a report and, had I, there’s no way he would have been charged. The abuse I experienced, for the most part, wasn’t the kind of vicious and obvious violence the police and courts like to see, in order to fit their definition of “abuse.”) — it was that I was not believed by those around me. It was that my abuser was supported by my community and continues to be supported. That he continues to bully and manipulate and abuse with no repercussions, as far as his social privilege, status, and acceptance go. He is free to do what he wishes and will, as far as I can tell, always get away with it.

While I hoped and would have loved to see Ghomeshi be charged and serve time for his crimes, I believe it’s equally as important that he be held to account by society. That is to say, that he not be allowed to move freely throughout this world, unstigmatized for his behaviour, that he not be allowed back into media circles, that he not be celebrated and accepted by his peers, that he acknowledge his behaviour, and acknowledge that it was wrong.

There is more than one way to hold men accountable and, while I am continuously appalled at the unwillingness of our justice system to do so, I think there is more we need to do, as a society, in terms of effecting change.

Yes, Ghomeshi committed a crime, but he is guilty of much more than punching a woman in the head “without consent.” I mean, had she consented, would he suddenly become not an abusive, entitled, sadistic man?

“Guilty” or “not guilty” is not a good enough conversation, in this circumstance. If my ex hadn’t backhanded me across the face one night, how would I describe his abuse to a police officer or to a judge, in court? What would he have been found “guilty” of?

The answer, of course, is: nothing.

Not only do we not understand that psychological, verbal, financial, sexual, and emotional abuse are always at play when there is physical abuse, but it also isn’t acknowledged that these things are generally unprovable to outsiders. We don’t understand that men manipulate women into “consenting” to abusive, traumatic sex all the time, to the point that we feel we “chose” it willingly and tell ourselves we enjoyed it.

“You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to f**k your brains out,” Lucy DeCoutere had said to Ghomeshi in an email. What does that tell us? Not that Ghomeshi isn’t abusive, but that women are socialized and manipulated, in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, into believing they enjoy their own degradation.

So when people like Brenda Cossman argue that the issue of “consent” is the key issue in this case, she creates a very small box within which women are allowed and able to discuss their experiences of male violence and misogyny in our culture.

Without the things women are expected to provide in order to “prove” abuse — pictures of injuries, hospital records, DNA — we are already not believed. In fact, “believed” is the wrong word — we are not understood. It is not understood that “consent” does not negate male violence and it is not understood that abuse comes in all sorts of forms, most of which are unprovable in court. It is not understood that pornography grooms women to accept abuse and that gendered socialization teaches women to politely absorb sexual harassment. It is not understood that the limited “sex-positive” discourse pushed by liberals gaslights women into believing they are “prudish,” “uptight,” and “anti-sex” if they don’t accept a male-centered vision of “sexuality.” “Believing women” is not the only thing we must do in these circumstances.

I understand the anger women across Canada are expressing at this unjust verdict. I can only imagine the pain Ghomeshi’s victims are experiencing today. But I don’t, for one minute, believe that a guilty verdict is enough, in terms of holding men to account and changing the public’s view of male power and abuse. We, as a society, are responsible for having that conversation and for effecting real change, in terms of ending male violence against women.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • omphaloskeptic

    “The abuse I experienced, for the most part, wasn’t the kind of vicious and obvious violence the police and courts like to see, in order to fit their definition of “abuse.””

    I find it heartening that this is at least changing in some areas of the law. For instance, BC’s new Family Law Act, which came into force in 2013, has an expanded definition of family violence that includes emotional and financial abuse.

    “We don’t understand that men manipulate women into “consenting” to abusive, traumatic sex all the time, to the point that we feel we “chose” it willingly and tell ourselves we enjoyed it.”

    How do you know that any of the things you choose to enjoy are products of your free will? If you like chocolate bars and you choose to eat them, how do you know that you actually enjoy them? What if you are merely duped by society into liking them?

    Is there a meaningful difference?

    • Laura

      i get that it’s just an example, but seriously, comparing chocolate bars to traumatic sex? yes i would say there is a meaningful difference ya weenie

      • northernTNT

        ALL likes are plastic. This conversation should never have been about “liking” any thing. It is about an assessment of healthy behaviours and unhealthy behaviours. “Like” is irrelevant.

    • Laura

      eating chocolate bars (w/in reason) does not endanger your physical health, eating chocolate bars does not destroy your sense of self, your sense of bodily integrity, your feeling of worthiness as a human separate from your use as a sex object. women are not constantly pressured to eat chocolate bars from a young age, they are not sold the idea that their great achievement is to eat chocolate bars. men who you trust don’t force you to eat chocolate bars, you don’t eat chocolate bars in hopes you will be liked, i could go on, and i’m sure there are other women here who could say it better, but really…i’m sorry but what kind of fake deep nonsense was that???

    • melissa

      More than half of all teenage girls in Pakistan believe domestic violence is justified. lets all respect their “choice”. hey, they must “like” it. lets also not question the fact that a shocking number of woman willingly go through FGM. lets not criticize the normalization of anti-woman garbage because some “like” it, some “choose it”. its really just like chocolate you know….



      • lagattamontral

        That just shows the extent of patriarchal domination in that part of the world. You’d have found the same in Europe and the Americas in the 19th century.

        • melissa

          yes, exactly. just trying to demonstrate how horribly reductive and ridiculous this “choice” argument can gets if we were to drag it far enough.

  • Raycer X

    consent is kind of a weird thing when there is absolutely no way for a man to prove he got consent unless the sex is on video. But that’s why the consent thing was brought in because everybody knows a man can’t prove he got it. It’s a trap

    • faculty member

      no one can consent to abuse. period.

    • melissa

      And yet there’s no way to prove a woman was abused even with the abuse on tape. anything and everything can be claimed as “consensual” now.considering the odds have always been in favor of the rapists, if there’s a “trap”, its for the women.

    • Lavender

      How about men just don’t hit, restrain, and otherwise abuse women? Is that an option for you or no?

    • northernTNT

      Well it’s kinda like robbery… no one consents to it. Non consent is assumed. It’s pretty simple.

  • oneclickboedicea

    Great piece Meghan. Even when the man abuses children, it is still the bro code getting him off. Our police, justice, MPs and social workers are awash with people that get off on seeing women and children degraded and abused by men. It is the living enactment of male supremacy ideology and lets them know that no matter how they behave, they will still have the support of the entire male community bar a few brave exceptions, in their bros before hoes doctrine.

  • Virginia Howard

    After hearing the verdict today, and reading Meghan’s line about women politely absorbing sexual harassment, I’m wondering if the role Victorians had assigned to impoverished prostitutes, the one analogous with the elimination organs of society, is the role that we’re expected to fulfill now. Are we expected to absorb all of the toxins– as in the world’s toxic masculinity– and take it to our graves, like good girls?

  • Sara Marie

    This is a terrific piece of writing, Meghan.

    I am guessing many men see this as a he-said/she-said thing. One where there’s now way to discern “the truth” about what happened. Women’s words are already given less weight and value than men’s. And we’re talking about the sexual realm here, where it’s vital to men/male supremacy to keep women as sexual things.

    What I wish men would realize is that women aren’t just saying “I believe her” willy nilly. It’s based on our own experience *as women* that we have come to see how abuse occurs, as well as the tricks abusers play, and if we’re honest with ourselves, how we often respond in these situations. For women in DV situations, it typically takes multiple, even many, unsuccessful attempts to leave before she finally does leave.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah… Men seem to think (or they like to think?) that “I believe her” means that women never lie or that the world is obligated to believe every single thing a woman says, point-blank, which is, of course, ridiculous. Even in terms of abuse or sexual assault, of course there are a cases of women who’ve lied. We know this. We say “I believe her” because we know what it feels like NOT to be believed and we know the historical context for not being believed. We know that it is more important to a woman that she be believed than it is, oftentimes, for a man to go to jail. We want accountability — we want to be able to believe ourselves, ffs! Being called a vengeful liar after coming out about something as humiliating and painful as abuse or rape is so traumatic — I just don’t think men fully get that. I think most women get it because most women have been through it. It’s not about saying that all women are good and truthful and all men are bad liars — it’s about relating to one another and understanding the damage it does when we come out about this stuff, only to be punished for it.

      • Personally, I would not use the words “I believe you” to mean anything other than “I accept the claims you have put forward as objectively true”. I think using it in other ways (for example, saying it to comfort people whether you think they are telling the truth or not) opens the door to relativism. The vast majority of the time when a woman accuses a man of rape she is saying something that is objectively true so I have no problem saying that I believe her. You have to be willing to be wrong 1% of the time if you want to gain as complete an understanding of the world as possible. If you believe women when they talk about being rape you will be right 99% of the time, which is why I believe them.

        It is of course possible for women to say things that are untrue and not be manipulative liars. An untrue statement is only a lie if the person saying it knows it is untrue. Otherwise it is simply a mistaken or false statement. We need to stop assuming that “truth teller” and “liar” are the only options.

        We also need to move the discussion away from simply asking whether a rape (in the legal sense of the term) occurred and start asking whether someone was harmed. In most cases, when women and men disagree about whether a rape occurred, the disagreement is not about the sequence of events which occurred but about whether those events count as a “real rape”. Such discussions seem like a waste of time to me, when real women are experiencing physical and emotional pain.

        Of course we need a legal definition for rape which can be applied in the courts, but being a good person is about more than following the law. Focusing all the attention on whether the specific crime of rape occurred sounds very liberal to me. The obsession with determining whether a sex act was “rape” or not is strongly related to the liberal obsession with consent.

        I think we need a new category for sex, like “harmful sexual practices”. This category would have no legal ramifications. It would simply be a way for men (and to lesser extent women) to determine whether they are being the best person they can be with regard to sex. If there is a long list of women who regret having sex with you that means you probably are not a very good person when it comes to the way you have sex, whether you follow the laws of liberalism or not.

    • lagattamontral

      Yes, it is great. I’d already read it at rabble and was waiting for it to show up on your blog. The case attracted less interest in Québec than in English Canada but now it is being discussed a lot by prominent feminists such as Francine Pelletier. It is seen as a huge setback.

      I’m old enough to remember when rape victims were routinely asked if they were wearing a mini-skirt or what they were doing walking home alone late. This takes us back to those bad old days.

  • Meghan Murphy

    My opinion is that psychological abuse, like what you experienced, is much more damaging, in the long term. Also, what’s odd is that people seem to miss the fact that sexual and physical abuse traumatize women because, primarily, of the psychological effects, rather than the physical ones. It’s strange that people only take assault seriously if there is obvious physical damage.

    • Tinfoil the Hat

      Not to mention, when this kind of abuse is heaped on men – American POWs, for example – there is grave sympathy and respect for the “brainwashing” said POWs suffer. It’s devastating when men are the victims, and deserving of scorn and ridicule when women are.

    • therealcie

      I think it goes back to the practice of telling kids to get tough or suck it up when they get bullied. There is a perverse victim blaming mentality in our society.

      • Tinfoil the Hat

        I agree. As well as the mentality that people who report bullying or other wrongdoing are “rats” and “squealers.” It’s worse to report wrongdoing than it is to commit wrongdoing.

  • Lavender

    What lays the groundwork for abuse is the constant, subtle, and overt boundary violations females experience. When you’re reminded daily that it’s normal for males to objectify you and that your body is the property of whoever wants to lay their hands on you, the gravity of each individual assault is lessened in your imagination. Women are always pressured to make excuses for sexism and male violence. Why should anyone be surprised that women do exactly that when we’re stunned, hurt or scared out of our minds? We should be telling men that violence is never acceptable and that regardless of the choices women make, men are always responsible for their actions. Worried that a woman might change her mind later and realize what you did to her was wrong? Treat her with respect and care. It’s not too much to ask. We’ve had enough.

    • rebel13

      “Worried that a woman might change her mind later and realize what you did to her was wrong? Treat her with respect and care. It’s not too much to ask. We’ve had enough.”

      I second this, and the right thing to be looking at in these circumstances is not “But but she wanted it!” What she “wanted” or did not want isn’t really the point — it is, what kind of person do YOU want to be? Do you want to be someone who hits/chokes/slaps/punches/beats/rapes someone, or not? A person who does not want to be an abuser says, “Wow, honey, I’m really sorry, but I am just not willing to hurt you for your OR my gratification. Can we talk about this and figure out what would be loving and good for both of us?” Someone who goes ahead and hurts another person, with or without “consent” — well, there is no doubt what kind of person you are then. I just hope women pay attention and avoid this guy, since unlike most abusers, his predilections are now public knowledge.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    I think all these things about abuse ARE understood, but it’s a feature – not a bug – of the way abuse victims are treated. Especially for women who are abused. The fact that a woman “allows” herself to be abused means all the abuse is her fault. People shame abused people, not abusers.

  • corvid

    When I found out the man I’d just slept with had been to jail for abusing his wife, I entered into a frustrating psychological battle to be rid of him that went on for months. He is such a manipulator that, after I finally got away, his wife went back to him! After everything he had put her through, he had broken her so thoroughly that she went willingly back into the nightmare. Because she loved him.

    It’s a kind of ongoing amnesia. It’s as though we can’t let go of the idea that, if we treat him nicely enough, he’ll suddenly turn human like us. Empathy will magically appear. We can’t accept the idea that this charming man in front of us could be a bad man. Porn culture has groomed us to respond positively to his aggression.

    I hope that, if there truly comes a time when we are post-patriarchy, our justice system will address the complex web of coercion and gaslighting woven by abusive men.

  • northernTNT

    EVERY thing and ANY thing can be “liked” we are plastic minds, we can learn to like misery. There is no surprise here. It’s why people like religion… they are enslaved by it. All a parent can do is encourage critical thinking from their children.
    The choices we make as societies are not “universal”, they are decisions we make, and as long as beating women up is looked at as entertainment, this will continue. As a society, we have a choice, we either approve of this, or disallow it. Each society makes its rules, other societies may differ in those rules.
    The ugly part is the pretending and pandering.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    My opinion is that if you want someone to torture and hurt you during sex, you likely don’t feel much self-worth to begin with.

    If you want to torture and hurt others during sex, you’re an abuser.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Right. That’s kinda what I’m saying. I mean, whether or not he’s found guilty of these specific abuses doesn’t make him not abusive. He still needs to be held accountable for his behaviour, regardless of that behaviour is worthy of charges. This is bigger than just these charges.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks will!

  • stella

    The one shred of positivity I’m seeing in this mess is that the media as a whole seems to still see him as guilty — I haven’t read any major news stories defending him. Hopefully this is a sign of a real change in how society views sexual assault.

  • martindufresne

    Meghan, I have translated your great essay in French for Quebec readers. Do you authorize me to post it on my FB page?

  • will

    I know I will probably get reprimanded for this but I have to say that I find Marie Henein to be monstrous. She presents as “impeccable female” (much like the Clare Underwood character in the U.S. House of Cards, which I stopped watching after one episode). She preys on existing prejudices, manipulating a deeply bigoted system for her own gain. She embodies one of the twisted products of neoliberal capitalism that pomo “feminism” promotes. I find her frightening and grotesque.

    I’d like to share this report from Lucy DeCoutere in the Guardian:


    and also this article from last month, which makes a good companion piece to Meghan’s Feb 8 post about returning to abusers.

    ““Women are taught to clean up messes,” says Farrah Khan, who runs a sexual violence education and support program at a Canadian university. “We’re taught to mend, fix and befriend our abusers.””


  • Xodima

    Absolutely. She is a terrible excuse for a person who continues to knowingly defend the indefensible people. She knows good and well that Gomeshi is anything but innocent yet she chose to completely disregard common decency and humanity for a buck. It’s sickening.

    The only positive in all of this is the out-of-court response to this case. Everything tht happened in court is blood boiling.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks will!

  • calabasa

    Thanks for help keeping me sane, Meghan. An amazing article and absolutely on-point, as usual (w/r/t convincing ourselves we like men’s abuse, feeling confused about it/like the crazy ones if we go back and forth in our heads about things that happened, how society supports and protects abusers, etc.).

    I am finally realizing that my recent ex is a sexual narcissist (even if he does have other good qualities–narcissism does make people actually quite good at at least emulating empathy, and he considers himself a ‘feminist’), that some of what he did WAS abusive, emotionally and sexually (and that he turned even my own sexual response into a performance, which later made it impossible to loosen up with and trust him, and was a blow to his ego, when I stopped being able to perform for him–after I realized it was a performance, and all about him and how it made him feel, and had little to do with me); that I felt a lot of confusion about “liking” (but feeling resentment about/confused about) some of his rough treatment of me (why I stay away from masochism; so many female “subs”–the majority of “subs”–have emotional issues, often stemming from abuse or trauma of some sort–often sexual–and it just seems unhealthy, like repetition compulsion; I think it’s better to try to retrain ourselves to outgrow old patterns than to train ourselves to “enjoy” repeating them). Women are groomed, in general, in this society, into seeing this kind of male sexuality as “normal,” and even men are confused about it, obviously (know it’s wrong and might even see themselves as the “good guys” but are somehow able to excuse/justify/outright deny their own bad behavior when it comes to women; the liberal dudebros supporting porn/prostitution etc. etc. fit right into this camp).

    People are complicated, and at some point “admiration” crosses the line into abuse/objectification/exploitation (complimenting body parts in attempt to push someone into doing what they don’t want is not a compliment–it’s abuse, and objectification, and domination; complimenting body parts/sexual response in general can be very objectifying, especially in the absence of trust and good sexual communication…yet at what point are we “repressing men’s sexuality” and “telling them their natural desires are bad?” I think it’s not so much their desires are bad–their natural ones, anyway; wanting porn-specific acts is not particularly natural–but that they way they convey them should be respectful and take into consideration their partner’s feelings and humanity). And that is part of the arsenal of the abuser, anyway–compliments followed by insults and meanness, deliberate cruelty followed by apology and sweetness and vulnerability, etc. etc. Abusers (or people who are abusing someone, at that moment) may genuinely fall in love and may genuinely feel vulnerable; but as they feel out of control of the situation–especially if their object of affection is not reacting as they’d like–that might make them inclined to be even more abusive (even if this manipulation is pathological and unconscious rather than calculating). These are all things I should know by now but am just realizing.

    I’m realizing I need to go with my gut within the first ten seconds of meeting someone, regardless of physical chemistry or attraction to other qualities about them; if I don’t trust them it’s not because it’s ME and my “history,” but it’s my gut telling me they are not trustworthy (in the case of my ex I liked him despite his supposed “charm”–he is good at shamming/pressuring women into sex–and relationships, when he wants them and they serve his purposes–I saw the “good” inside him and thought I could get around that disingenuous, predatory side; but no, it’s all part of the package. I think me seeing his good qualities and “true self” and seeing what he calls “the monster” and still liking him anyway is part of why he’s so hung up on me). I need to just shut that shit down and move onto the next one, never even sleep with that guy. And certainly, at my age, I should not let major red flags pass because I otherwise like someone–things that make me uncomfortable as a woman, let alone as a feminist, or a good person (“joking” statements like “it’s true that black women give the best blow jobs,” for example, in a conversation about sexual stereotypes)–because “people say dumb things sometimes.” Obviously they are revealing of a greater truth (in this case, about how he sees women and his entitlement as a white male, including a degree there of sexual racism) and just the tip of the iceberg, and these views/behaviors will come to light later (as they did).

    My sister said “you always date traumatized men” (they are often attracted to me, anyway). My ex had been through a lot–a baby dying, wife leaving him for a classmate and having children with him, a physically abusive ex-gf, losing his virginity to rape by an older girl–but then again, so have I (a LOT of sexual abuse, as well as physical violence in my first LTR), and although I sometimes perhaps project onto men I don’t treat them badly or abusively in relationships; I don’t hit people, I don’t take sexual advantage, I try to avoid being mean to people, etc. etc. And not all of my traumatized exes were abusive, quite a few treated me well even in fights (I mean everybody fights), and did not sexually or physically or emotionally abuse me. So trauma is not an excuse. It might make somebody who is already a bit selfish, self-absorbed, insecure, or narcissistic worse, but it is not an excuse.

    Anyway I have cut him off. After the power play of being madly in love and then breaking it off and sleeping with a bunch of other women (which didn’t work out for him so well), my ex intimated to me in a cowardly rhetorical (if obv in pain) fashion that “it might have worked out between us if we’d met each other a few months down the line” (when we were both more established/stable/settled where we are now) “but I think I’ve hurt you too much.” (I.e., I want you back, but am not risking rejection by asking directly). This whole conversation–when he was really needing because his dad is now in the hospital, and he is feeling sad and desperate–was filled with these sort of semi-apologies, as well as admissions of how much he still cares about me. We had a great night, he was very nice, he bought me dinner and drinks, we of course ended up hooking up (my fault as much as his), he was very sweet and so was I, it was like we were back together again…

    …but I think it’s more likely, if we’d met a bit later (when he was “ready” for another relationship) we might have stayed together years before we broke up, it would have taken longer for his abusive behavior to emerge (which I’m sure it did with other girlfriends, regardless of how they themselves acted), and ended badly, and been absolutely terrible/much more traumatic and painful/much more of a time-waster for me. Better we met when he was more unstable, it was hot and heavy, he got way too attached early on and then revealed his wishy-washy nature and his abusiveness and lack of support of me, etc. Much better to burn brightly through something like this quickly than drag it out forever.

    He is insisting on being “friends” (probably partly because he genuinely misses me and wants to be friends, and likely partly to try and show me he’s a good guy as an avenue to getting back together), but I don’t believe it for a second. With everything we have in common and how well we get along, in an alternate universe where he isn’t selfish, emotionally immature and narcissistic, we would be a perfect match. But not in this one.

    So I cut him off, cold-turkey (he forced me to then be the breaker as well as the breakee, putting us both through both those awful roles–what an asshole). On Easter, when his dad is in the hospital and I’d told him (and genuinely meant it) that I would be there for him (and he even said “maybe it’s not fair to ask you to be here for me after everything that’s happened between us,” even though I had reached out to him, feeling awful for him). I did it in a nice way, telling him I believed in him, but this back and forth was too disruptive to my life and I’d have to walk away.

    And hey! I got a job, on the same day, teaching writing at the local community college (while at Easter brunch with the chair of the English department there), so here’s to new beginnings, getting rid of bad habits and old patterns…I feel like a bone has been thrown my way and a weight lifted. And I feel I learned a lot from this relationship (and that people are complicated…I know my ex genuinely cares about me and wants me to get help for my issues).

    I won’t let him back into my life though (and I know he’ll try). I’m going to be strong about this.

    People–whether Ghomeshi or my ex (or other men who have abused me) or the author’s abusive ex as well–are complicated, with good and bad qualities (doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person; maybe doing it over and over again starts to). But understanding and sympathizing are not the same as putting yourself in the line of fire, and you do absolutely have to name abuse and call it out for what it is even if someone isn’t punished for it–I absolutely agree with that, and am glad I told my ex I thought he was abusive (he told me I was “conflating him with other abusive men in my life” and projecting onto him) and you absolutely have to refuse to have that person in your life. Compassion is one thing, accepting abuse because of it is another.

  • MistyMina

    I think this is where social media comes in handy. We can name and shame these men in the community. The law is unbelievably stupid as this UK case shows:

    I fell on her and my penis may accidentally have entered her vagina.