With the trial of radio star Jian Ghomeshi just wrapping up and Toronto club promoter Mark Holland’s trial just underway, why do men in power keep getting away with rape?
The last few months have been fairly bleak for women in a lot of different respects. First and foremost, women have lived in a vacuum of rhetoric and think-pieces analyzing the good, the bad and the ugly facts to do with Canada’s once beloved media darling, Jian Ghomeshi. For women across Canada, it was hard to sit back and watch as people gave their two-cents and sound-bites on the how’s and why’s of rape and consent culture – either for or against.
More recently, Toronto club promoter Mark Holland of Kleen Media was arrested for assaulting an 18-year old girl. Prior to his trial date, I sat down with Angela* (name changed) who was a close friend of the Kleen Media crew. She shared with me that during her time running with the Kleen Media clique, she was sexually assaulted by someone close to Mark. Angela shared with me that when the situation took place, she questioned for a few weeks if she should come forward because she was afraid of what the police and the public would think, more specifically if they would think she was lying. She explains, ‘I had gone to his house that night and we were partying and doing drugs. I didn’t feel safe [to come forward].’
“I had gone to his house that night and we were partying and doing drugs. I didn’t feel safe [to come forward].”
Sadly, for people like Angela – she is not alone. More often than not, women wait years to speak up about sexual abuse and even then, that does not stop people from questioning them. Victims feel powerless and ashamed, and often times, blame themselves for the situation at hand. When I spoke to Angela, she explained to me that it was watching the Jian Ghomeshi trial verdict come to light and seeing another woman bring the charge forward against Mark Holland that made her report her assault to the police. Still, she worries about how she will be presented going forward and her attacker’s presence in the club scene. She explains that she believes there are more women like herself… but that they’ve been quieted because of the advantages and perks the clubs offer.
This case, however, is not like all cases. For many victims, there are little incentives to coming forward with an allegation of sexual assault and having to recount the trauma. The Canadian justice system is not built for women. Even after the Criminal Code was changed to serve and protect rape survivors, fewer than one in five victims of sexual assault say they reported their violation to authorities. The reason: the system is broken.
For many victims, there are little incentives to coming forward… The Canadian justice system is not built for women.
Although the law does its best to protect those who are reporting, many women who report these rapes often find themselves on trial answering questions from their past to shame, blame and deflect from the actual assault. The message that this sends out to victims is that coming forward means risking more than gaining. To people like Angela, what kind of justice would that be?
Our society teaches men that sex is their right and that women are fickle and often times, when women say no, what they really mean is yes. Sadly, we keep giving men like Mark Holland or Jian Ghomeshi power. For example, just days after Mark Holland was charged with sexual assault – he sat front row at Toronto Fashion Week – an event largely attended by women and for women. Sadly, the organizers of TFW are just another group of folks who stand silently against women and survivors, letting men like Holland stand in power, parading around as if there is nothing to lose.
The most serious problem about rape in Canada is that a majority of rapists get away with their crimes. Thousands of cases are abandoned year after year due to the fact that police don’t know how to investigate crimes of this nature. The forensic evidence isn’t there or the victims aren’t willing to put themselves out there to be re-victimized over and over and over again.
With introductions of the Rape Shield legislation (amended into the Criminal Code in 1992), these strict guidelines limit a defendant’s ability to introduce evidence of past sexual behaviour or complaints into trial. This doesn’t exactly help women; rather, it harms them. The system is flawed and continues to be flawed, and there continues to be little optimism among observers and survivors.
The system is flawed and continues to be flawed, and there continues to be little optimism among observers and survivors.
A YWCA chart of rape statistics states that of 1,000 sexual assaults in Canada, there are only three convictions. And still, people ask, “Why don’t women come forward?”. The answers are right there in black and white. The system isn’t built for women to come forward. It’s 2016. Isn’t it time we change the system to be built for survivors?
Why do you think men in power are still getting away with assault and is there a shift coming? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us@ViewtheVibe.