March 24, 2016 1:25 pm
Updated: March 24, 2016 3:08 pm

Jian Ghomeshi trial: Sexual assault survivors rarely lie about violence


In a 26-page decision handed down Thursday morning, Ontario Court Justice William Horkins found former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of three counts of sexual assault and, while doing so, suggested that not all sexual assault survivors are telling the truth.

Among the many reasons for the verdict was the “inconsistencies” and “demonstrably false” nature of some of the witnesses’ testimony, he wrote.

He also wrote that the complainants’ evidence “illustrates the need to be vigilant in avoiding” the idea that all sexual assault survivors are telling the truth.

“However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful,” he wrote.

“Each individual and each unique factual scenario must be assessed according to their own particular circumstances.”

He went on to say that having reasonable doubt “is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened.”  Ghomeshi has maintained the allegations against him were untrue, and has said in the past that while he engages in rough sex, the acts were consensual.

READ MORE: Why don’t women report rape? Because most get no justice when they do

While Justice Horkins was reading his decision, Twitter users complained that a not guilty decision, or failing to believe victims would keep survivors from coming forward. The hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors was trending during the day’s proceedings.

Erin Ellis, a lawyer with Jellinek Law in Toronto, said the Ghomeshi trial highlights “some of the shortcomings in the judicial system when it comes to sexual assault claims.”

“I have some fear that the verdict and the way the trial turned out that it will help re-inforce the myth that many sexual assaults are made up or fabricated,” she said.

“That is not the case, statistically that is not the case. Very, very few allegations of sexual assaults are made up.”

In 2014, there were approximately 20,700 sexual assaults reported to police, according to Statistics Canada. But only a small portion of sexual assaults are ever reported to police and the number of self-reported sexual assaults is much higher.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many sexual assault reports are false but one American group, the Enliven Project, found two per cent of sexual assaults reported in the United States turn out to be false.

And in Canada, false sexual assault reports are no more frequent than any other type of crime, according to Woman Against Violence Against Women. The organization cites a University of Alberta study suggesting between two and four per cent of all reports turn out to be false.

Ghomeshi was found not guilty of three counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance – choking by the judge Thursday. He has another trial set to start in June where he faces another count of sexual assault.

*With files from Andrew Russell

Read Justice Horkins’ full decision below: 

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