Let's Talk about Sexual Assault: Survivor Stories and the Law in the Jian Ghomeshi Media Discourse
Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 54(4)
64 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2017 Last revised: 6 Sep 2018
Date Written: June 16, 2017
The recent allegations against former Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi catalyzed an exceptional moment of public discourse on sexual assault in Canada. Following public revelations from several women who described being attacked by Ghomeshi, many others came forward with accounts of sexual violence in their own lives. Affirming feminist critiques of sexual assault law reform, many survivors drew on their experiences to expose the criminal justice system’s ongoing flaws in processing sexual assault cases. While some held out hope for the criminal law’s role in addressing sexual violence, most rejected its individualizing and retributive aspects. Instead, survivors emphasized the need for their experiences to be meaningfully acknowledged, and the primary importance of speaking out publicly about sexual violence in order to debunk common stereotypes and effect cultural change. Following a grassroots feminist impetus, they framed their stories as resisting legal and social norms through a turn to direct personal experience.
Yet the experiential accounts of sexual violence publicized in the wake of Ghomeshi also drew from criminal law discourse in a number of ways. Not only did survivors use legally grounded concepts to define their experiences, they also re-theorized past experiences in ways that bear noticeable parallels to recent shifts in the law of sexual assault, especially around consent. Thus, I argue, their accounts should be read as both resisting and reflecting legal scripts.
Keywords: Sexual Assault, Ghomeshi, Criminal Law, Feminist Legal Theory, Discourse
JEL Classification: B540, K00, K100, K140, Z130
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation