I'd had a bad feeling about where things were going from the moment that the first witness was eviscerated by the defence lawyer about her behaviour after the alleged assault.
The witnesses, like me, didn't remember things they'd done 13 years earlier, and clearly weren't prepared to have those things flung back at them in detail by the defence lawyer with the worst light possible shining on them.
I don't know why they weren't warned in advance that unlike other crimes, a sexual assault allegation means everybody's going to be scrutinizing your behaviours before and after, looking for evidence that you're a lying slut. But the trial has certainly been a good reminder of that. We like our victims of sexual assault to be snow white, and immune to the complex feelings that come when you're assaulted by someone that you thought liked you.
They also weren't prepared to go up against a man who obviously knew there might be a day in the distant future when the women he assaulted would disagree with his version of events, and so kept every email, every note, every easily misinterpreted thing that people say in the oh-so-complicated circumstances of being struck in the face or choked by celebrities they'd been attracted to.
"I’ve never felt so bad about being myself than I do now," witness Lucy DeCoutere told Chatelaine magazine this week. Could there be a sadder statement than that about how well our court system serves victims of sexual assault?
Read this post-verdict piece from Witness No. 1 and weep. The things this woman wishes she'd known before bringing her allegations are things that virtually none of us know. Most of us would come to the court system with nothing more but a few episodes of Law and Order to prepare us, and perhaps naively thinking that being a victim gives you some sort of protection from the violence of a criminal trial.
Why is that? Why do we wring our hands about doing something about sexual assault - the vast majority of which happens at the hands of people we have invited to come closer, who we've initially given consent to, thus making things complicated and unclear from the outset - yet still talk so little about what awaits people when they dare to bring charges?
Ah, but now we're all quite a bit clearer about that last point. The Ghomeshi verdict hasn't brought any sense of resolution, but it did bring a crystal-clear focus on how inadequate our justice system is in handling complex cases of intimacy gone off the rails, especially when the accused is so very, very aware of masking his violent behaviours through the artifice of consent.
The only good thing to come out of this is the web site that one of the witnesses has now launched, comingforward.ca. She told Chatelaine she hopes the site will help survivors of sexual assault "find some guidance before going to police and taking the stand.
"Right now, there’s nowhere to look all of that up, and no one to talk to," she said in the interview. "I wish I’d known all of that from the minute I walked into the police station. But I still think — as horrible as the system is — more people have to come forward. If everyone stays quiet, it’s never going to change."
Find Canadian sexual assault statistics here.