Jian Ghomeshi’s three accusers are “educated and employed,” according to the Toronto Star. Does this make their allegations of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of the former CBC host more credible? For advocates of sexual abuse survivors, it seems so.
“When I read that line I thought, ‘Oh, I see; they’re valuing women who are educated and employed more,’” says Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, executive director of the Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre in Vancouver. “They’re more believable.”
The Toronto Star’s investigation into sex abuse allegations levelled at Ghomeshi—which reportedly led to his dismissal from the CBC last week—rocked Canadian media this weekend and set social media aflame. Ghomeshi launched an early offensive late Sunday when he posted to Facebook a lengthy defence of himself and what he refers to as his “private sex life.”
Whether or not the women’s claims are true, the Toronto Star’s presentation of the alleged victims as “educated and employed” is significant and speaks to a cultural problem when it comes to how we perceive victims overall, says Tsepnopoulus-Elhaimer. “Women have to be a certain way to be believed.”
In her experience, women of lower socioeconomic status, especially sex trade workers and Aboriginal women, are deemed less credible in our culture when they make similar claims. “What kind of woman do you have to be to be believed?” she asks.
Toronto Star reporter Kevin Donovan, who wrote the piece, said he’s heard from several people who also had trouble with the seeming implications of the terms. He explained via email that they weren’t “intended to cause any distress.”
“To the contrary it was to provide a very limited description of the alleged victims and to provide a part of the explanation as to why, according to the women, they were concerned about speaking out publicly or making a complaint,” he explained. “These are people who have jobs, and were concerned that there would be a backlash against them for speaking out, as they, with knowledge of how things sometimes can work, have seen happen or heard happen in the past.”
That concern is one more troubling aspect of a distressing story that has yet to fully develop.
UPDATE Oct. 30: Actress Lucy DeCoutere says Ghomeshi abused her
Trailer Park Boys star Lucy DeCoutere says former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi abused her. The actress, who also happens to be a Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, told the Toronto Star that Ghomeshi slapped and choked her during an encounter in 2003. She claims it was without her consent.
“He did not ask if I was into it. It was never a question. It was shocking to me. The men I have spent time with are loving people,” DeCoutere told the newspaper.
DeCoutere is one of eight women who have now come forward with allegations of abuse against the former Q host (On Sunday, the Toronto Star mentioned just three women alleging abuse). She is the only one who has decided to reveal herself publicly, however.