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My Heartbreak Over the Ghomeshi Verdict

Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:41 AM

I am heartbroken over the Jian Ghomeshi verdict.  There are countless pioneers, trailblazers, advocates, and allies of the violence against women movement that can explain the socio-political and legal implications far better than I can, but I feel its impact deeply.  For all of us that work with One Spark to ensure that women achieve financial independence, we do this work because there is no question that when women lack access or face barriers to resources, their vulnerability to violence is increased exponentially.  Likewise, when a legal system reacts with impunity to punching, choking, and otherwise abusing a woman, that system makes all women vulnerable.  When we treat victims of violence like they have only experienced a crime if they did and said the right thing before, during, and after it happened, that makes all women vulnerable.  When we send the message to survivors of physical and sexual violence that we will employ every legal means and loophole to tear you down before you may or may not see justice, that makes all women vulnerable.

Jian Ghomeshi did not say that he did not hurt women, nor that he did not enjoy it.  But, that wasn’t the issue.  The issue was the role of the women: did they collude, did they reveal all the details, did they lie, did they contact him after the fact…did they…did they…did they…

But, nobody denied he hit them and he choked them.  And nobody denied he held the balance of power while he was hitting and choking them.  Now, he’ll see another day to hit and choke again, as will others that know that the Ghomeshi defence can be their defence and that the complainants’ shame and humiliation can be their victim’s shame and humiliation.

As much as I love the “I believe you”/ "We believe you” hashtags, those of us that work in the violence against women field – and make it our daily mission to broadcast that message to survivors - tend to inherently start from a place of belief, compassion, and trust, so these campaigns and messages reiterate existing systems of support.  The fundamental challenge is to effectively address the flaws in our systems and power structures that critically exacerbate the vulnerability of women.  In time, I know the heartbreak of “not guilty” will translate into a strengthened resolve to make change: it will fuel the work of so many that understand that violence against women and the risk of violence against women are woven into our socio-economic and legal systems and the processes that support them.  And so our work marches on in the hope of a day when #webelieveyou is a systemic starting point and no longer a necessary rally cry for women impacted by violence and re-victimized by the very systems that are supposed to protect them.

With peace and hope,

Corrie Schneider

Executive Director, One Spark

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