After Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal Thursday morning on sexual abuse charges, two of the women who testified against him spoke to Chatelaine, a Canadian women’s magazine. Both actress Lucy DeCoutere and an anonymous woman say they were ill-prepared to testify; the anonymous woman has launched a website to help assault survivors prepare for court.
In her interview with journalist Sarah Boesveld, the woman known as the “first witness” says she didn’t seek legal guidance before making a police report. The woman alleged that Ghomeshi pulled her hair and struck her in the head on two occasions in December 2002 and January 2003; she reported the incidents in 2014, after other women made similar accusations against Ghomeshi to the Toronto Star.
The first witness told Chatelaine she was unaware that her rambling, nervous police statement would ultimately be used in court and given to the defense:
They should have informed me that every word I said could be disclosed to the defence should there be a charge. When I went to the police, I felt like I was venting; there wasn’t much direction. The police won’t tell you to take your time, be descriptive, use words and not gestures. It would have been helpful if they had stressed that I check through emails to see if I had any communications with Jian. Jian was read his rights and told anything he says could be used against him in a court of law. It turns out anything a witness says can be used against them, too.
(The Toronto Police Service told Chatelaine in a statement that all the victims were made aware that their statements were being given under oath, that they could be used in court, and were asked to disclose any further contact they had with Ghomeshi following the alleged assaults.)
The first witness told the magazine, too, that she was unprepared for how aggressive her cross-examination by defense attorney Marie Henein would be, and that she’d be questioned about details like the color of Ghomeshi’s car and an email she later sent to Ghomeshi featuring photos of herself in a red bikini.
“It was like being on a game show in front of the whole country,” she told Boesveld. “And if you answered one question wrong you’d get a poison arrow in the head.”
Meanwhile, actress Lucy DeCoutere was also interviewed by Boesveld, acknowledged that things “spectacularly” fell apart during the trial. She, too, was questioned about warm, flirtatious emails she sent to Ghomeshi followed the alleged assault (“I want to fuck your brains out, tonight” one read) and flowers she sent him:
Post-incident conduct — that term has come to haunt me. When I was concerned about emails with Jian, they were emails from before [the assault]. I wasn’t even thinking about after because I didn’t think it mattered — because it shouldn’t matter. Now I understand that it matters because it measures your memory. I didn’t know my memory was on trial.
She has felt tremendous guilt, she added: “After I testified, I felt like I had to go up to every person in the world and apologize for ruining the case.”
The first witness has launched a website, ComingForward.ca, that is aimed at helping Canadian women navigate the legal system if they decide to report a sexual assault.
A protester outside the Old City Hall Courthouse in Toronto, Thursday, March 24, 2016. Screenshot via The Star