Reva Seth and Lucy DeCoutere deserve a medal for their courage in coming forward with their accusations about Jian Ghomeshi. Recent evidence indicates Ghomeshi’s behaviour had been witnessed by many people over the years and for various reasons they chose to remain silent or no action was taken. The ensuing media attention has heightened awareness about the frequency of assaults on women and men and I can only hope that our politicians and law enforcement with the support of citizens in general start to do something to correct the situation.
The number of women, children and men who are abused every day is far higher than anyone imagines. In my own lifetime and within my own circle of friends and acquaintances I know only a few people who have not been sexually abused. The good guys out there find it hard to believe that it’s so rampant and the bad guys have enjoyed decades and centuries of protection by a society that trivializes the incidence and impact of the attacks. Everyone has their own particular reasons for not pursuing legal action to stop their attackers. It could be fear of reprisal, fear of not being taken seriously, lack of emotional stamina needed to see the process through, embarrassment, humiliation or sadly, reversal of blame. Most often, they want to simply put it behind them and hopefully in time the pain will go away. But it does not.
There is simply no excuse for one human being to hurt another human being under any circumstances. But every second of every day, women, children and men are emotionally and physically abused by relatives, friends, husbands, wives, protectors, acquaintances and strangers. And most victims never report it. I was recently made aware of a poor immigrant woman who is forced by the manager of the factory where she works to provide sexual services for him every day. If not, he will fire her and she needs the money she earns as her language and job skills are limited. She is also afraid that if her traditional husband finds out, he will blame her and divorce her. She lacks knowledge of and confidence in the Canadian legal system to support her if she reports the abuse. This is not uncommon. Even those of us who were born in Canada and are familiar with the legal processes lack confidence in its ability to provide justice and ensure our protection.
It will be interesting to see how the Jian Ghomeshi story develops. One upside of the controversy is that perhaps it will remind abusers that the tolerance for their behaviours is slowly being eroded. I sincerely hope that our lawmakers and enforcers will undertake a review and implementation of new laws that do not further victimize the victims. The bad guys don’t deserve to get away with their actions and the only way that will happen is to treat the victims with the respect and care they deserve. Violence has no place in anyone’s world, least of all the vulnerable. Reva Seth and Lucy DeCoutere are just two women who said “I’m not going to take it anymore” and they should be commended for their courage. Perhaps this awareness has brought us two steps closer to action.