Lucy’s lesson

Writing in the Metro News, reporter Ruth Davenport seeks to explain why so many women choose not to report episodes of sexual violence and abuse. Like so much of this discussion, it’s a strongly worded piece, and it puts the lie to the notion women who “fail” to go to police “couldn’t possibly have been assaulted.”

Think about being groped, molested and raped, and then think about whether you’d want to give the detailed play-by-play to a whole stable of complete and mostly male strangers…

Women, it seems, must always have an agenda. We don’t actually slap scarlet letters on them anymore, but thanks to the internet, women who accuse a man of any kind of misbehaviour risk having not only their identities exposed and publicized, but also an eternal water-torture drip-drip-drip of daily character assassination.

Refusing to file a formal complaint—the decision made by approximately nine out of every 10 sexual assault victims isn’t a case of modesty or manipulation—it’s simple survival. And modern rape culture is thriving on it.

It’s understandable and praiseworthy that women seek to comfort fellow women who decline to report abuse for all the reasons Davenport suggests. It’s also important to drive this point home to skeptical men.

600full-lucy-decoutereDavenport is also correct when she points out that not reporting sexual abuse is part of what allows it to persist. But I believe she exaggerates, at least for most women, when she says not reporting “is a matter of survival.”

Lucy DeCoutere will no doubt suffer some of the unspeakable crap internet trolls heap on women who report abuse, but she will most certainly survive. Her self-aware account of violent behaviour at Ghomeshi’s hands, so free of artifice, so stark in its contrast to Ghomeshi’s studied attempt at a pre-emptive strike, brought a cascade of praise to her Facebook page. #Ibelievelucy instantly became a popular Twitter hashtag.

We’ve learned something important about Lucy DeCoutere because of her disclosure, and it only makes us love her more. She has grown in stature and public esteem.

Not every woman is Lucy DeCoutere. Some women will choose not to report, and that may be the right choice for them. We must make every effort to improve the way police handle reports of this kind, and we should take care to support those who do report.

But in seeking to comfort those who choose not to report, we should not overstate the perils of reporting. Like many things that take courage, reporting abuse is a good thing, a thing to be encouraged, never discouraged.


On his Facebook page, Contrarian friend and former Daily News colleague David Rodenhiser has linked the two big news stories of the last week in a way that shed much needed light on both.

If the reports are accurate, Jian Ghomeshi has committed criminal acts against far more Canadians than “self-radicalized domestic terrorists.” Yet we don’t see the federal government acting to provide more supports for victims of violence. Where is the campaign to shut down the internet trolls who anonymously attack the women who confront their abusers? Halifax Regional Police are sending armed cops to every cenotaph in the city on Remembrance Day, but Chief Jean-Michel Blais has so far been silent on what he is doing to sensitize his predominantly male officers and make it less intimidating for women to report violence.

All of which is sad, because violence against women is a pervasive problem where genuine efforts could actually do some good. Instead, we’re “defending democracy” with the continued militarization of our police services and by providing government agencies with more power to spy on us – stripping away freedoms in the name of a lie called “security,” a mythical state that can never be achieved.

Turn around Big Ears Teddy. You shouldn’t see this.

Finally, Kate Harding has a great piece on deconstructing Ghomeshi’s Facebook post.

His version of events is that he broke up with a woman with whom he’d had consensual kinky sex, and she was so furious about the rejection, she initiated “a campaign of harassment, vengeance, and demonization” that would come to involve multiple women. Even though Ghomeshi assured us that a major newspaper had looked into the women’s claims and decided they weren’t even worth covering, he apparently still had a strong suspicion that shit was about to go down, and it would look a little like this:

In the coming days you will prospectively hear about how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie. But it will be salacious gossip in a world driven by a hunger for “scandal”. And there will be those who choose to believe it and to hate me or to laugh at me. And there will be an attempt to pile on. And there will be the claim that there are a few women involved (those who colluded with my ex) in an attempt to show a “pattern of behaviour”. And it will be based in lies but damage will be done.

As the writer Rebecca Makkai said on Facebook, “This is a little like when my 7-year-old runs out of my 4-year-old’s room going ‘I didn’t hit her with a plastic tomato!'”

I’ve spent some time in the risk communications biz, and I know there are times when its useful, but other times it’s a relief to see spin get its brutal comeuppance.