When this whole Jian Ghomeshi thing broke, I said to a friend, no matter how this shakes out, it’s not gonna end well for somebody.” Um, that would be a yup.
Now I find that it won’t leave me alone, and it’s moved beyond anything rational, so I hope that maybe, if I write about it, it would finally give me some goddamn peace. Oh yeah, brain, and when I wake up from a dead sleep, it is not a good idea to play Moxy Fruvous tracks in my head. No, no, no! Out! Now! No!
At first I felt I had no right to write about this, I mean, I never met the guy, nor will I ever, so what would I possibly have to say about this? By the large volume I’ve managed to write, I guess I had a lot to say.
I really didn’t want to believe that what people were saying was possible…I mean, gees! Could a guy whose voice has been playing in my livingroom be responsible for the things of which he was being accused? Those songs were so good, some of them really made me think…it can’t be! No! It was so disappointing, it felt like such a betrayal, and I did not want to believe.
But that didn’t last too long. There were inklings, and comments on Twitter, and other remarks that made me realize that something really creepy was about to come to light. And oh my. It wouldn’t stop. Before long, whenever more would appear, I would just sort of freeze before daring to look at it…and then wish I never had. The descriptions burned into my brain. Steve knew when I’d found another Ghomeshi story by the shrieks of revulsion that came from this end of the house.
The freakiest part was the stories came from everywhere. It wasn’t just in articles. People were saying things, people who didn’t even know each other. And they were all saying really similar things…reeeeally too similar. I saw the piece called Do You Know About Jian? and would go from being unbelievably creeped out to so angry that this had been going on for so long, and everybody seemed to know about it, but nobody could do a thing, because nobody knew enough of anything, and those who did…well…were too afraid to say a word on the record.
Then, I realized later that it was going on even longer, this has been going on since his university days! More people knew, but again, didn’t come forward. People were being warned, but there was no public record, so it persisted. No wonder, by the time it reached this level, he thought he could get away with it. He’d been doing it for over 26 years, by the sounds of what is coming out.
Somehow, this thing has managed to awaken every single fear I have…bring back to life lots of old things that happened to me, minor things, that all add up to make me wonder if I could have been the victim of someone just like Ghomeshi. All it would have taken was one wrong turn, and there I’d be, just like all of these.
Take, for example, the older fellow in this story about my freaky friends. I think about those couple of evenings walking around with him. He would repeatedly ask, “Do you know where you are?” Why, why did he want to know? Did he have plans? And he said we were going out for coffee. Why did we wind up at a pub? Why did he want me to order a drink? Never have I been so protective of a drink in all my life. “No, I’ll pour that myself.” I remember thinking, “There has to be a more discrete way of keeping an eye on this glass than this…but I don’t care,” as I sat with one hand around it, one hand near the top. Thankfully nothing worse happened than an unwanted kiss, but to this day I still wonder just what he had in mind.
I think of how many times, when I was new to town, I had to ask for help from absolute strangers. All it would have taken was one of them to seem perfectly nice, perfectly charming, and then have them turn on me. I remember saying to Steve, “I have to get more familiar with more areas, because the law of probabilities isn’t in my favour. The more times I have to ask randoms for help getting from A to B, the more I roll the dice, and one of these days I’m going to lose.” Think about it. These people know I don’t know how to find a given location. If they wanted to, if they felt they could, they could lead me anywhere and I might not clue in until it was too late, and at that point, I’d have a lot harder time getting away. Luckily, not a single soul hurt me, or gave me the inkling I should be careful…the closest I came to creepy was when a guy was helping me an especially long way through the snow, and then told me he was once a drug dealer. I know, they’re not all evil monsters, but I was freaked out all the way home. That was my warning shot. I just thought he was an ordinary dude.
The images of these women feeling trapped, having to stay the rest of the weekend with him because where were they going to go? Those images freak me out, because again, it could happen to me. I’ve been far from home on trips, and if something went down, what the hell would I do? What kind of options would I have? Not a whole lot.
But of course, these victims are going to get blamed for staying. I can just hear it. “It couldn’t be that bad if you stayed with him for another couple of days.” But I don’t know what I’d do if I were in their shoes. When it happened, I think I’d be bewildered, and wonder what just happened. Then I’d be either unable to believe it could happen again, or afraid to try and leave because…unprovoked, the guy already threw me against a wall, etc. Now what would he do if I tried to leave? I honestly don’t know what I’d do, but it would be the most terrifying 2 days of my life.
Or, if I tried to leave and go somewhere else to stay, for me there’s the extra element of if he decided to find me, I wouldn’t see him coming. I think about this creepy kid at the school for the blind. He would wait for the new girls to get lost, and then appear like a knight in shining armour to redirect them where they wanted to go…all the while *coughcough* forgetting *coughcough* they had to take his arm, taking theirs instead, and moving his hands
waywardly. This guy was so obviously creepy that he wouldn’t be as scary as, say, someone with some skills at manipulation and a touch of charisma.
So…should I put myself in a position where I’m in a strange city and have no idea where he might be, or should I stay here where I know exactly where he is…until I can get the fuck on a plane and get as far from him as humanly possible?
At first, the common response from a lot of people about this whole thing was “Why has no one gone to the police then?” Obviously, these people understand little about this whole issue, and what all is involved if you do bring it to the police. For those who don’t know, here’s a million reasons. The stats are depressing. The number of reported sexual assaults that actually move through the whole process and get a conviction is quite low. So, the victim relives the whole thing, has their behaviour called into question, perhaps has to face their attacker in court if they get that far, all for potentially nothing.
And imagine if the person you’re accusing has some power over your career. What happens to you then? You could lose a lot more. You really weigh whether it’s worth it, even though you know reporting it is what you’ve always been taught you should do. Someone hurts you? Tell someone! That’s what they tell you ever since you were small. But you realize, now, that it’s not that easy.
Now imagine this guy is a public figure, like, oh, gee, say, Jian Ghomeshi. I don’t blame a single one of them for not reporting it. Not only does he have a lot of power, but he has a lot of fans…some of whom might do who knows what.
And you always think you’re the only one. You blame yourself. No one else could walk into this situation. So the idea of encouraging others to come forward never enters your mind. Even with that tiny incident I mentioned before where a long-time teacher made comments about the way I was developing, I blamed myself for years so never said a thing to a soul. There was a bathroom right there, why did I change in front of her. I felt uncomfortable with it, why did I go ahead? It took me years to realize that she was the adult, I was the kid, I don’t deserve the blame. Now magnify that when you think of what these women went through. Imagine how much blame they probably heaped on themselves. It doesn’t take too many brains to figure out why they didn’t say anything.
Well, all the people who started off saying that whole police thing can cram it, because now, at least 3 people have gone to the police.
I cannot imagine working with this guy if he decided you were appealing to him. From all accounts, it does not sound like a pleasant experience…at all. Just thinking of the things I’ve read and heard gives me the shivers. The fact that a lecturer at Western University started strongly discouraging students from taking up internships with Q speaks to how bad it must have been. I’m glad that at least one student did manage to tell someone, and it protected others in the same school from going through similar. But who knows how many employees and others had to deal with that, day in and day out?
I think about a couple of ambiguous incidents that have happened to me over the years. The first was when I was helping out at an agency. I was paired up with someone who had trouble hearing, so we worked alone in a back room. At first, all was good, but eventually, his hands would find more and more inappropriate places to land, supposedly accidentally. I eventually commented loudly about it, and it stopped, so I can hope they were really accidents, but I don’t think I’ll ever know. but I was lucky, because if it had kept going, I probably would have had ways to deal with it, and I kind of had a bit of power because I was the one doing the helping.
The other incident happened when I was working with someone on a project. I met him first in a public setting, and he seemed like a nice dude, just an ordinary dude. So when he asked me to work on something with him, I was totally cool with it, why wouldn’t I be? We went to a room alone so we could better have a discussion. But whenever there was a lull, he would find a place on me to rest his hand. A shoulder, then my leg. When things would go wrong, he would put his hand on me in an almost consoling manner…but my body vehemently objected. He would also say things like “How’s the boyfriend?”
I was weirded out, but I didn’t want to do or say anything. I mean, maybe this dude was just socially awkward and touchy-feely…and you don’t want to level an accusation like that unless you’re reeeally sure. If you’re wrong, good god. No good can come of that. None for him, none for you!
When I worked with him again, it was in an open room with others. But he still found a way to put a hand on me where no one would see, under the table on my leg. I don’t know what my face did, but I swear colour either went into, or out of, it rather dramatically. Still, no one noticed. I don’t blame them, they were all busily working away on their own stuff.
Now, in light of all of this, I wonder what I should do if the two of us ever end up working together on a project again. Do I dare ask someone else who knows him if there’s anything I should know? Or if I do that, is that as good as making an accusation? I don’t want to be wrong, but really don’t want to find out if I’m right…a little too late.
And again, this is just me and a random dude working on a random project. There really isn’t a power imbalance. Imagine if this dude was my boss, or a guy who had a considerable amount of power? Imagine if he was a guy who had been there a lot longer than me, who knew a lot more people? If I said those things, really, who would everyone believe? I doubt it would be me.
As I write this, part of me says “Gees! You make yourself sound like you’re walking around with a great big ‘touch me, flirt with me, people want me’ sign on. People aren’t going to believe that all of this happened to you. They’re going to think you went looking for it.” But I didn’t, and I am shocked at the things coming out of my own brain. I don’t honestly think that, and I hope others wouldn’t either. All of this happened, and all I did to provoke it was exist. And all of my stories are infinitesimal compared to this stuff…and there’s still a part of me that says “don’t post it! Don’t do it!”
There’s a small part of me that wonders if Jian Ghomeshi is…so out of touch with the world, or into himself, that he thinks he’s getting signals that the women want this when they clearly don’t. I don’t know, but that seems even scarier than him knowing what he’s doing is wrong. I don’t believe that all these people are out to get him…and I don’t think anyone else sane does either. I could understand one or two, but not 11, especially when that 11 includes a guy! Ghomeshi allegedly grabbed a dude without any warning or provocation. Just…reached over, and got a big ol’ handful of crotch. Who on earth does that? Ever? It isn’t funny, not at all, but it makes him into some kind of ridiculous caricature that seems unreal, but also, who would make that up?
And the scary part is if there’s one like that, there are more, and that really freaks me out. What inadvertent signal could I be sending that some strange person would take as consent? “She got in my car because I offered her a ride. She wanted me.” “She looked at me across the room and her eyes did this little jiggle thing. She wanted me.” The possibilities are endless.
You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been writing about this…entirely too long. But maybe, maybe, I can stop thinking about it. Maybe it will leave me alone, and maybe one day, in the very distant future, I can enjoy a Moxy Fruvous song for what it is, a good song. After all, he wasn’t the whole band, and why should the rest of them go down with him?
And if there’s one good thing that’s come out of this, it’s that others are speaking out about what they’ve been through. At least this whole Ghomeshi thing can be used as a vehicle to bring this out in the open, and maybe more people will come forward and get some justice for themselves. If there’s anything I’ve seen from this, it’s that if you’ve been harassed, the likelihood is you’re not alone. You’re likely not the first and you won’t be the last.