Not Guilty Does Not Equal Innocent

Not Guilty Does Not Equal Innocent

For those who were not following the trial or verdict, Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on 4 counts of sexual assault and 1 count of choking on March 24, 2016.

I know this is (several months) late. I needed time to process it all and let the anger, fear, and disappointment simmer down. I want to understand and articulate it all. I don’t want to read or write any more angry surface level stuff about society and victim blaming and how it’s unfair. I also don’t want to read or write any more snobby, condescending things about how it is fair and just. I’m well aware that it’s fair/unfair, that victim blaming is real/is not real, and that justice was/was not served. This particular case may have been a bad example, but in many ways it could have been a landmark. Now it is a precedent that judges can use to justify future acquittals. I want to learn exactly what’s wrong and find out how to start addressing it, and then throw all of my energy and passion into it.

I have so much to say about this case and the bleak odds any complainant will face in our system that I am just going to make a list.

1. I was expecting it.

2. ‘Expecting’ and ‘prepared’ are not the same thing at all. It still knocked the wind out of me.

3. I was heartsick, devastated & broken all over again.

4. I understand on a logical level the burden of proof, the reason we have so many checks and balances, and why it’s important to uphold the integrity of our justice system. I can appreciate innocent until proven guilty, and I know what beyond a reasonable doubt means. I’m not dumb.

5.I know that everyone was just doing their jobs.The judge was in a tough position, the crown’s hands were tied, the defense attorney had a duty to her client, etc. etc. etc. etc. (Side note: please don’t say that Marie Henin has betrayed all women. Gendering it like that is what really sets us back 70 years. We would never accuse a male defense attorney of betraying his gender. She did her job – sickeningly well, but well nonetheless..It is incredibly important that there are people willing to defend the accused, even when they are sack of shit scum bags.)

6. The fact that these assaults happened was never challenged or brought into question. Not by the crown, not by defense, and not by the judge.  Everyone danced around it, like a damn fox trot.

7. I’m thinking back to my case, all of the details I can remember. While I remember more than I could ever want to, and I still see it when I close my eyes, I can’t be positive that I would be a good witness. If you challenge my memory enough times I will start to doubt and second guess myself. If you are actively trying to twist, dispute, and discredit everything I say and remember, I will look weak and I will break.

8. On that note, let’s go easy on the women who testified. It’s like the Superbowl – you’re pissed at your team for losing but could you have done any better? Probably not cause you’ve never played football in your damn life.

9. I’m trying to take solace in the fact that “not guilty” does not mean innocent, his reputation is ruined, everyone knows he did it, and HOPEFULLY this scared him into stopping.

10. But all of this is hard to reason through when I know that Jian Ghomeshi could go to a bar tonight, pick up a girl in her mid-20’s, beat her up, and no one would ever do anything about it. If a man beats a woman behind closed doors, does anyone hear?


I don’t know how to fix this. But what I do know, is that many, many predatory men have habits and patterns of abusing women. There are laws in place to punish them for these actions. And there is a disconnect between the abuse and punishment. Several disconnects, actually. The system is set up to protect the accused, for good reason. It’s an important pillar of our system. We don’t want innocent people in prison. But given the .003% conviction rate, we can do better. We HAVE to do better.

I think I’ve read every single article and opinion piece created about the verdict. There are some good points.
I’ve read the decision ad nauseam. /
Don’t blame the judge, he was just doing his job. /
We could adopt Scotland’s “not proven” verdict as a sort of middle ground. /
What if we took the “sexual” out of “sexual assault” would it be easier to prove and prosecute plain old assault? /
#WeBelieveSurvivors may have worked against us, and maybe we are all to blame. /
Maybe we need a separate court to deal with sexual assault, more training for all players in the court room, better resources for the crown, civil court, and/or restorative justice. /
Are these our only options? What about restorative justice? /

Maybe the answer is a mish-mash of all of these ideas, concepts, and perspectives.

I’m sad and frustrated. I was awake for the better part of a week trying to understand how this is fair, reasonable, equitable, or the best we can do. It scares me to think that the only way I, or Ghomeshi’s victims, could have received justice in the court of law is if we had been murdered. Murder is easier to prosecute.

#WeBelieveSurvivors is heartwarming. I appreciate it so much, and think that it is a positive movement. Survivors were listening to this trial, and they heard a troubling message from this case. Luckily, the public was there with arms wide open. I saw a lot of support – messages, hashtags, conversations, personal accounts & disclosures; & I hope it continues.

But we are missing a key point. What about other perpetrators, assailants, attackers, rapists? What message did they hear in this ruling?
They heard that there’s no accountability. They heard that it’s the victim’s fault and responsibility, that the victim will be on trial. There is absolutely nothing stopping these predators from continuing to do what they’ve always done. They heard that it’s okay. And it’s not. It’s not okay.

As for me personally, the message I heard is that I am worth more dead than alive. And I’m scared as hell. If a man beats a woman behind closed doors, does anyone hear? Can anyone hear me screaming? Can anyone save us?

I hope everyone can heal from this.
We can do better.
We HAVE to do better.

– Elizabeth

The court of law is not a place where complainants can be unequivocally believed, in order to protect the accused. It’s a tough pill to swallow but I am learning to understand and respect that. 

However in public domain, they can be unequivocally believed. I do believe, and will always believe victims who come forward – they have no reason to lie, as this onion article states.




Hi! I'm Elizabeth, a blogger on When You're I spent 2 years struggling with PTSD and panic attacks following a violent attack. I want to use my experience and my voice to raise support for others. I desperately want to make the world a safer place for girls and women, especially my two little sisters. Keep talking, Keep sharing. When You're Ready, I'll be here.