The Jian Ghomeshi trial is probably stirring up lots of emotions here in Canada, in the same way that the Bill Cosby accusations have in the USA. Not all women will react in the same way that I do. I find it hard to listen to the accounts and tolerate the shift in blame towards the women who have come forward. I do not know Ghomeshi personally. I am one of those people who thought he was attractive when he used to perform with Moxy Fruvous. Friends of mine are friends with his sister and I think about her as this trial unfolds, wondering how she is processing things. She is by his side, but I wonder, what she is really thinking as a woman.
Last night as I read how one of the witnesses is being badgered by the defense lawyer, I recognized her strength and was a bit awed by her ability to redirect the attention back to the perpetrator and not to her actions. I could feel deep sadness and anger creeping into my core being. Why is it that we re-traumatize the victim in these situations? I have watched Lady Gaga’s painful documentary video Til It Happens to You a couple of times. I hope it never happens to you. I hope it never happens to me. I hope no more women I know have to take the stand in a court room and are made to believe that they did something wrong. The dynamics of violence are so complicated…we simply do not understand them.
A memory stirred last night, one I had not thought about in several years. I know I am one of the lucky ones, if I can call it that. A long while ago, a male friend asked me to stop by after work. Something had happened and he needed someone to talk to. I agreed. When I got to his place, he was half-dressed and apologized for just stepping out of the shower. That was my first red flag but I ignored it. We sat down and talked. He had had a blow-up with his girlfriend and sought my advice. Before too long, my radar was blaring. Something did not seem right. I started to excuse myself and he asked me to stay, finally confessing to me what he really wanted. I reminded him that he had a girlfriend and I was not interested in him in that way. I got as far as the door when he tried to convince me that being with him would be a great experience. I stood fast by my earlier decision. I did not foresee his rage. It seemed to come out of nowhere. He pushed me, slamming me against the wall. I was stunned but somehow I reacted in a way that ultimately curtailed the situation. I got angry which is something people do not often experience. I told him not to ever do that to me again and then turned and walked out on his apology.
Our paths continued to cross…as did mine with his girlfriend. I confronted her about a broken leg that she had had. She could not look me in the eyes. Leave him, I pleaded. She eventually did. Other than her, no one else knew what had transpired. My shame of what I thought was my own stupidity and naivety silenced me. He moved away and I forgot about the encounter until unexpectedly I ran into him in another city at a social event a few years ago. My heart raced and I wanted to scream to anyone that would hear me that he was an abusive coward. I took extra precautions as I went to my room that evening, pushing a few extra buttons so that if he had been watching he would not know which floor I was on. Do you comprehend how women have to live in fear, even years later?
I listen to young women in my life talk about the times they have had sex when they have not wanted to, women my own age share that they wished they had waited a bit longer before being intimate with men, and too many of my female friends disclose their stories of experiencing sexual violence. The stories weary the soul. I am tired of women being slammed up against a wall by men who think they can take what they want. I am tired of young boys insisting that their girlfriends do it here now because they have needs. I am exhausted in dealing with my rage that yet another woman I know has been sexually violated. When does it stop? When do we say that a no by someone really means no? How do we learn that a yes means yes to making love, not being beaten up in the process? When will it ever be safe for women? When will even women stop making it impossible for other women to come forward? When I pleaded with the girlfriend to leave her abusive partner, she did not have the supports in place to do so. She was also convinced that she loved him–and he her. We have no idea what love really is until we know Love. Even then, most of us arrive at dating age, broken and brainwashed by images of women in the media. How do we change the messages that women receive?
Men are broken too, in many ways. How do they come to believe that hurting someone is pleasurable? Even so-called enlightened men surprise us with their bedroom secrets which is why both Jian and Bill have divided the camps. How can two men who were so well-known for the good things that they have done be so deceptively dark? Speaking Truth in these situations requires even more courage. I do not know how to heal the men in this equation either. I just know that together we can bring Light to the subject and maybe that will be a start. God have mercy on us.
What emotions run through you as you read this?
What is one action you can take to change violence against women?
Do you weep, Creator, as your creatures lash out in violence? We are up against a wall, O God, that only You can move. Heal us as both men and women. From the beginning, we blamed one another instead of trying to work out our differences. We need a new path in this desert. Show us the way. Amen.