The verdict that was handed down yesterday in the Jian Ghomeshi trial left me with a feeling of complete hopelessness. It’s not actually the verdict itself that has left me feeling so confused; I expected nothing else. It’s the treatment of the victims that has left me almost speechless.
I truly thought we were past this. I thought we were moving in the right direction. It has devastated me to learn that I was wrong.
It wasn’t enough to simply clear Ghomeshi on all counts but the judge felt it necessary to spend over an hour chastising the survivors, pointing out every single way they acted inappropriately, every single word they said wrong and every way their actions were not the way a sexual assault victim was supposed to act.
I couldn’t listen to him talk, each word felt like a kick to my gut.
Now I am left wondering what next?
What am I supposed to tell my daughter?
I have spent so much energy trying to make it clear that if someone touches her in a way that makes her uncomfortable that she should tell someone, even when it’s scary.
How do I tell her that when she does report it the attention will be focused on her actions before, during and after the event and there will be no focus on the actions of the person who hurt her?
How do I tell her to report it even though she will most likely be the party who will be dragged through the mud, that her character will be put on trial?
I have spent most of her short five years telling her she gets to be anything she wants to be if she works hard enough for it.
How am I supposed to tell her that even after all her hard work, unwanted advances from a boss or co-worker could derail her career?
I naively made the assumption that I was bringing her into a world where she had a certain amount of freedom.
I was wrong.
The expectations and judgments that will be placed on her make her anything but free. She will be expected to be pretty but being too pretty might make her a slut. Be friendly but not too friendly because then she will be a tease. Be nice but being too nice will mean she was asking for it. She will be expected to stand up for herself but not too much because then she will be seen as a whiny, shit disturbing, complainer.
What am I supposed to tell her when she’s told to calm down as she tries to give her opinion, as though her thoughts and ideas are no more than a woman’s silly emotional response?
What am I supposed to tell her the first time she’s called a bitch because she refuses to give someone her phone number?
What am I supposed to tell her when she’s called a cunt because she turns down a request for a date?
Last night I lay down beside her in bed and I felt defeated. A terrible sadness overcame me as I thought of all the ways society has failed her.
Today I refuse to feel that way.
Today is a new day.
Today I woke up prepared to go to battle for her.
Today I woke up to the realization that I can’t give up. It’s not over. The battle will go on and we are a part of that battle whether we choose to be or not.
I will continue to tell my daughter that she owes no one her niceness and that she should never stay in a situation that makes her uncomfortable because she’s afraid of how she will be perceived.
I will continue to teach my daughter that her body is her body and no one else gets to decide what she does with it. She gets to decide who touches it and when and she is the only one who gets to say what’s acceptable and what’s not.
I will continue to tell my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be, even though I know there will be obstacles put in her way.
I will teach my daughter that when someone judges or her calls her names that it says more about those people than it does about her. Yet, I will also make it clear that it will sting when it happens.
I will give her the message that when something isn’t right, she has a voice and it’s perfectly ok to use it.
I will continue to teach her that even though she is receiving so many messages to the contrary, she is free to be who she wants to be.
I will make sure she knows there is no “right” way for her to act to be deemed worthy.
We will continue to have discussions around consent so that both my son and daughter understand what is acceptable and what’s not.
I’m not ready to give up. I can’t give up. Giving up means I give up on her and I don’t have that option.
The scariest thing about the Ghomeshi trial to me is that there really was no question that he committed these acts, the question at hand was if the women wanted it.
Ghomeshi was protected by an organization that swept complaints from their female employees under the rug. He was protected by schools who silently stopped sending interns to work for him. He was protected by the judge who felt that three women weren’t acting “abused” enough for him.
While he was protected, these three women were left with the impossible task of proving that they did not actually want to be abused.
How can I possibly explain that to my daughter?