Lately, the media in Canada had a ball with a case involving a well-known talk-show host of their own: A “handsome devil” attracting a lot of attention from the ladies and he seems to have reveled in it. His abuse and sexual harassment within his working environment reached dimensions such that his contract was terminated. Then several ladies came forward, they told their stories and accused him of sexual abuse, rape and physical abuse during their interactions. What I cannot understand is that it was revealed in court that one of them had sent him e-mails after some horrible experiences caused by his so-called lovemaking. Another was photographed in a park cuddling up to him after the affair had ended. Apparently they also told the police and the courts slightly different stories. There were lots of discrepancies in their re-calling of the happenings. The judge declared the witnesses not reliable and in the end, this man received the verdict “Not guilty.”
I can imagine how happy he was that he got away with it. The general impression is that he was, and remains, “guilty as hell”. He left the court by the back door since lots of women were demonstrating outside the courtroom. But the lawyers are fighting for their clients and the law states no one is supposed to be judged until ‘proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt’. In this case, there was a lot of reasonable doubt.
Why do I bring this up, a topic that I would rather “not talk about”? Because in my book “We Don’t Talk About That” I have not only written about the wholesale rapes by the Russian soldiers ordered by Stalin when on their way to Berlin in 1945. I have also revealed my own experiences of abuse that I could not report because nobody would have believed me. A senior colleague with power over me and of high reputation held a pistol to my head. Another time he parked his car with my side close to a very prickly hedge so that I could not escape. He practically abused me for several years, stalked me for more years after I got away and never gave up pursuing me, claiming to love me. He was totally obsessed with me. How many women keep quiet when abused or raped by their boss, superiors or co-workers? Why are we women so afraid to report it? Because we may lose our job, we may not be believed, we may be judged by not just other men but also by women. We try to avoid embarrassment within our families and don’t talk about it. In the meantime, we suffer from a stress disorder and often our bodies react with a disease, in my case with pneumonia. In the hospital, I felt safe and I couldn’t get well because of it.
Months later I had a new job, walked along a beach and enjoyed the sunset. A man followed me. I did not know about his intentions, ignored him but, unbeknownst to me, he was a convicted rapist on parole. He attacked me. Naturally I reported the case, had several witnesses who had rescued me after several hours fighting him off and there was a court case. He got off with a slap on the wrist because “he had not actually raped me”. Asked by the judge why he didn’t give up after I gave him a black eye with my ring and knocked him out he turned to me and said: “I liked her then and, I must say, I still like her”. The courtroom erupted in laughter and I stood there with a red face. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I not reported it and accused him. I bet that hardly any woman would have been able to hold him off for more than five hours until help arrived.
In both my cases I said then and I say it now: A woman cannot win. Abuse is rampant in our society and most women “Do not talk about it.” And when they do as in the above case of the talk-show host they may not have told all in the first instance. And then, when in court, being humiliated, they tell a different story. Men in some societies can rape a woman and she is stoned to death for adultery. No, not in medieval times, right now.
Let me add another thought: What about the young woman who was sexually abused at her university in B.C.? She was told to find another university when she reported it. Why her and not the abuser? It seems it is always the women who become further victimized.
Giselle, when I heard the verdict of not guilty, I was shocked. My shock deepened when I heard the judge’s comments about the accusers being unreliable. My first reaction to that was probably a common thought: so the women didn’t get together and synchronize their stories? That was how the judge’s comments struck me.
Time we put women’s legal cases before a woman judge, seems to me. Then listen to the howls of protest from the men.
It is still a man’s world. It may always be a man’s world because women tend to yield out of fair play, while men continue to bull their way through life with the automatic feeling that they are superior and to hell with it.
I don’t know if it will ever change.
I don’t think a woman judge would have made a difference. It was a woman who defended him. Lawyers go by the book, they pose the questions to the witnesses to irritate or confuse them. To humiliate them to the point that they fall into traps by the questions. The women did not tell the whole story and therefore, the judge had no choice but to call them unreliable. And then you have the “reasonable doubt.” It’s a bitter business and it makes my blood boil again like it did when the whole courtroom broke out in laughter. My would-be rapist had a lawyer advising him – I didn’t. Once you have the “laughers” on your side you are ahead. And yes, I think you are right: It may always be a man’s world. What should be changed is the sentencing. New laws.
So brave of you Giselle. So damned hard to recover. I hope that you can feel in your mind that you are the stronger person.
Thank you for writing this.
Giselle, Not too many women could have endured all you have in your lifetime. And yet, like the Timex watch that takes a licking but keeps on ticking, you, too, have shown amazing resilience despite being repeatedly kicked….you keep fighting. I am in the middle of reading your incredible memoir, and can attest to the fact that you are the bravest, strongest woman I have ever known.
The story you refer to, above, is much like the story here in the United State’s, where our own lovable Bill Cosby, is accused of raping woman after woman, by first dropping something into their drinks. Nobody believed all he was being accused of. Nobody. He was loved and respected by everyone. It took roughly 39 of his victims, uniting, to finally convince the legal system that Cosby was not the saint we had always believed he was. And, even now, there are those who continue to believe all these women are lying. I believe in time we will see changes. I really do. Unfortunately I don’t believe it will be in our lifetime.
Well written, as always Giselle. Bless you.