Christie Blatchford’s Coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi Trial

Christie Blatchford
Christie Blatchford outside the Toronto Courthouse

I’m writing this in response to critics unhappy with Christie Blatchford’s coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi trial. Her words may be unsettling, but she speaks for many who question the prevalence of victim narratives when it comes to women and abuse. 

Imagine this: we have two male articling students at the same law firm. Gary works on the eighth floor and Bill on the tenth. They see each other often in the course of their work and, one Friday, they decide a game of pool and a couple of beers would be just the thing to end the week.

So they spend an evening at a local watering hole and on the way home, Gary suddenly turns to Bill, grabs him by throat and slaps him in the face three times.

What would happen?

Would Bill send Gary friendly emails afterwards? Suggest they get together for another night out? Snap friendly selfies together?

No, the chances are Bill would push Gary away, saying something along the lines of “What the fuck bro?” It’s also likely that Bill will avoid Gary in the future.

What’s to be learned by this? Lots. Whether or not feminists want to admit it, men usually have the right response to violence. They rebuff it, acknowledge it with a WTF, and stay the heck away from the perpetrator.

Jian Ghomeshi with Marie Henein
Jian Ghomeshi with defence lawyer Marie Henein

The one and only time I experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner happened when I was 23. I’d fallen hard for an attractive, edgy guy whom most of my friends considered a very sexy catch. The problem was that his edginess was real and in private it translated into an explosive temper.

When he tried to assault me, three months into our relationship, I successfully defended myself. I felt stunned in the hours following, but the next day did something that I’ve been silent about for years. I phoned him, told him I wanted to talk—during the day—and added that the conversation would not be an ’emotional’ one.

In light of the bewildering behaviour of Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers, I now know to give myself a lot of credit. I too wanted an explanation for my attacker’s behaviour, but had the smarts to realize that a daytime meeting, sans alcohol, would be safer and would elicit clearer answers.

Of course it’s a meeting that never happened.

My embarrassment over that phone call came from the belated realization that no man who could hit a woman would volunteer for a conversation like the one I was proposing. In that respect, the depth of my naïveté only dawned on me slowly. However, by the time a week had passed, I knew this man’s inclination for violence was real and putting myself in his company again would be a very bad idea. So even though my infatuation with him was powerful—I came to view it as an emotional virus with a life-span of its own—I ceased contact.

It was difficult, all the more so because I’d grown up witnessing domestic violence. By the time I turned 23, I understood I’d been primed to accept it and was likely to replicate it in my adult life. (My parents had experienced WW2 first-hand, and looking back, it’s obvious they both suffered with untreated PTSD.)

I was determined to break the cycle, however. When it came to this man, I went cold turkey and agonized through a terrible period of what felt like withdrawal. It was something I never wanted to experience again.

Lucy Decoutere: She and Ghomeshi had an encounter that ended, she says, in violence.
Lucy Decoutere

That was over 30 years ago and what slowly evolved out of it was an impatience with friends who choose denial over clear-sightedness in their intimate relationships. These are the women who cycle in and out of relationships with men they alternately adore and vilify, the ones they want to have kids with one day and turn in to the authorities the next. It’s an impatience with downright flakey behaviour, the kind that is often explained away as social conditioning, the kind that produces women too polite to tell deserving men to take a hike.

The problem I have with the politeness excuse is that children often pay the price for it. It seems no children were harmed by Ghomeshi—which is a blessing—but there are plenty of women like his accusers who have children and who expose them to the consequences of bad decisions. A woman who tolerates an abuser and takes her kids along for the ride, needs, in my opinion, to be held accountable too. It’s an unpopular way of thinking, but let’s face it, fewer children would suffer if we held it as a basic standard of parenting.

No one likes tough love when it’s directed at them, but Blatchford’s reporting from the trial isn’t upsetting all of us. There are plenty of women applauding her focus on self-responsibility, especially the sort that encourages us to act in a timely manner when it comes to reporting sexual or domestic abuse.


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9 Replies to “Christie Blatchford’s Coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi Trial”

  1. So, Ghomeshi preyed on women with serious psychological and self-esteem issues, right? It makes him all the more despicable.

    It’s amazing that this violent egomaniac has us criticizing the victims. Yes, they’re responsible for protecting themselves, which, clearly, they failed to do. But this doesn’t make Ghomeshi less guilty. It makes him vile + guilty.

  2. i agree with this article to some extent: both plaintiffs on the stand seem to have serious issues..heck most gals with any iota of self respect would have kicked Gho-doushi in the balls and/or slapped his face …or at the very least just stormed out of there never to contact the sick fuck again….that they didn’t also says things about them, sadly. I’m not excusing Gho-doushi either (hope his career never resumes..he gives us guys a bad reputation)

  3. The women assaulted by Jian Ghomeshi are revealing the true nature of abuse.

    Marie Henein, the defence lawyer serving Ghomeshi, is selling the myth.

    “Fixing a broken system: Sexual assault and thelaw”:

    Henein is helping Ghomeshi be the Gerald Regan of this generation:

  4. Ummm, I know men who get drunk & stupid and fight with each other, and get past it. I’ve been on bad dates and given it another shot, just in case it was a one-off, or worse – that I could help the poor soul (I’m over that, thank God) and there were some ticks in the “pro” column. I’m thinking “good looking radio personality” would have been one. It seems to me there may have been some alcohol involved in all this, as there often is in sexual assault. Am I not following along closely enough?

  5. Now, let’s add a new dynamic in the above example of Gary and Bill. Let’s suppose Gary and Bill are gay, and their outing is a date. Let’s suppose that Gary is a superstar lawyer who is on TV all the time. Let’s suppose Gary has been wooing Bill with the intention of seducing him into a violent sexual encounter…but he doesn’t tell Bill that. Suppose Gary flirts and says, “What do you think about me tying you up and playfully spanking you?” Let’s say Bill’s intrigued by the idea of gentle sex play. Bill’s smitten with Gary and wants to please him. But Bill doesn’t envision being beaten and choked in this scenario.

    Now, let’s get to the date. Let’s suppose Gary and Bill have been kissing and canoodling, and Bill thinks Gary is genuinely interested in him. Let’s say Bill is expecting a kiss, but Gary unexpectedly punches him in the head and chokes him to the point of Bill passing out. Let’s say Bill is upset, and tells Gary he didn’t consent to that. But Gary shows him emails saying, “You did consent. Look. You said you were interested in being tied up and spanked. If you go to the police they won’t believe you because I’ve got this email.” Bill feels humiliated and confused. He wonders if he gave Gary the wrong idea, and blames himself. Gary lets him feel this, and rudely shows him the door. Gary treats Bill like an object. Bill is devastated, because Bill really thought Gary cared about him and was interested in a relationship.

    Violence happens in gay relationships/dating scenarios, too. Gay men do get raped and beaten. Gay men who are victims don’t just shake it off. They are traumatized just like heterosexual women are.

    I am a feminist, and I believe our judicial system is fraught with systemic misogyny. Although I think the accused deserves a rigorous defense, I don’t think that should extend to revictimizing the complainants with misogynistic rhetoric, as we’ve seen in the Ghomeshi trial. If Marie Henein used racist stereotypes to discredit the complainants, we’d be up in arms. But the fact that she’s using disparaging gender stereotypes and misogynistic language seems to get a pass. I think it’s despicable myself. The state of the complainant’s marriage, her job status, or whether she cuddled with her alleged abuser after the fact has nothing to do with establishing consent, or the alleged assaults. Nothing.

    I do think our judicial system fails victims, and doesn’t understand the relationship between trauma and memory. It doesn’t understand the coping strategies employed by trauma survivors…such as “tend and befriend”.

    And don’t get me started on “whacking”. I think we need to expand Rape Shield laws, and discuss the ethical practices of defense lawyers. There is no reason why the defendant can’t have a rigorous defense without “whacking” being employed. (And yes, Henein is using “whacking”.) It’s barbaric, and doesn’t disprove guilt. All it does is traumatize survivors, and that’s not what the judicial system is supposed to be about.

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