Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sexual Assault Is ....

The story of the week in Canada is Jian Ghomeshi--the CBC radio host who was fired for ... apparently having an extensive record of sexual assault.  This is one of those things that turned out to be an open secret, best explained at here.

Ghomeshi, being the media guy that he is, tried to get in front of the story by claiming CBC was upset about his kinky sex life and by arguing  on facebook that it was an ex-girlfriend and some of her friends trying to tarnish his name.*  He launched a huge lawsuit, probably mostly to make him immune for libel as he trashes his accusers.
*  He must not be checking his facebook page because it has stuff like this on it now

This story is raising all kinds of questions.  The most obvious and important is: how many women does it take for it not to be just he said, she said?  The answer seems to be eight, as last night was the turning point with eight women (all but one anonymously) coming forward to The Star.  That one of these happened to be an actress in a prominent Canadian TV show might have also swung public perception.  But this speaks to a broader issue--yes, Ghomeshi should be considered innocent by Canada's courts before being proven guilty, but we probably should not take that to mean we should presume that his accusers are lying until proven otherwise.  Indeed, the first few days of this demonstrated quite clearly why women tend not to report sexual assaults.

The bright side of this is events like this help to reveal who is truly stupid: Shelia Copps, who was once Deputy Prime Minister, tweeted:

I responded to her thusly:
The dark side is ... very, very dark.  This guy preyed upon young, vulnerable women.  I was sad to learn of this twitter account @bigearsteddy, as it was created months ago (April), by someone associated with Carleton's journalism program:
I have met several students in Carleton's journalism/media programs as they need to interview "experts" for their assignments, and we happen to be in the same building.  So now I am concerned that my school has one or more students (current or former) who probably need some help and probably needed it a while back.  Indeed, I am now thinking it would be nice for the programs that send students out to do for the students what the folks in the media did for their friends: do you know about Jian?

When predators engage in bad behavior, they often get away with it because the people that know something are reluctant to say aloud what they think they know.  If you don't have proof, you can fear being accused of libel.  You can fear professional consequences.  The same is true in academia as it is in the media.  One can hope that the students gossip amongst each other to say that a certain professor has a history of sexually harassing their students, but that telephone game can go awry and can certainly fade over time.  I am certainly less shy now than I was before about naming the predators that worked at my previous places of employment--but am not sure of the legal consequences of saying online who did what.... [if you apply to graduate programs where I have worked, I will tell you in person who to avoid but not online]  In my last job, I was part of an elite cabal aimed at diverting students away from the serial harasser.  Now that I am no longer there, I can only hope that the same system is in place.

Ultimately, this stuff is hard.  What we need are for institutions to do the right thing and flush the awful people out.  The CBC can be seen as weak or brave in all of this--that they got rid of Jian because they feared lawsuits or that once they had enough evidence (which we don't yet know what that might be), they got rid of an employee who was damaging pretty much any female in the neighborhood.  It is actually possible to do that in academia, but institutions tend to prefer to protect themselves rather than their students.  

 Update: I got this email from Carleton, which they sent to all faculty, staff, and students:

Dear Members of the Carleton University Community,
Carleton University is aware of allegations about former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi that may involve a Carleton journalism student or graduate.
The university is reviewing its records about field placements that our students have done at CBC Toronto and whether there were any at the Q program in particular. We have no information at this time that any of our students have been victims.
We encourage any member of our community who requires support to reach out to resources on campus or in the community. Resources on campus include Carleton's Sexual Assault Support Services and Health and Counselling Services.
Sexual Assault Support Services
Health and Counselling Services


 I am glad to see that Carleton is taking this seriously.  The @bigearsteddy tweets did indeed raise some alarm bells, so it is good that the school is responding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is actually far worse than what has come out so far. Expect to hear more about big ears teddy.