One icy January morning around 3 a.m., I did call the police. My then-boyfriend was arrested and charged with one count of assault and two counts of assault with a weapon.
The next day, one of my oldest (and strongest) friends, the director of a women’s shelter, asked whether photos had been taken of my injuries when I made a statement. They hadn’t, so I called Toronto’s 14 Division station and asked the investigating detective why not. He said because I had been drinking.
A very long time later, my ex got two years probation and had to pay me $1,000 for time I took off of work. A few weeks after that, his probation officer called me to pass on a message that my ex wanted to apologize so that we could be friends. I didn't report that. I smoked a lot of cigarettes instead.
I haven’t written about this before because violence is, in its own insidious way, an intensely personal experience. I also didn't know what difference it would make. I am writing it now because of those asking why shamed CBC host Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged victims didn't call the police. It’s because it’s essentially useless, and thoroughly disappointing.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the allegations of violence currently facing Mr. Ghomeshi and I didn’t feel like I had an especially unvoiced opinion. Now I do. My opinion is this: you’re all full of crap.
By “you,” I mean the people who are remotely shocked by this story. The ones who are saying that this, right now, is a watershed moment. That some collective “we” has finally had enough of violence, done by men, against women, and will no longer allow for it to be swept under the rug.
Why is now that moment? Why wasn't it when Robert Pickton dismembered dozens of women’s bodies in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and fed them to his pigs? During the investigation into that horror, RCMP officer Catherine Galliford was told by a male colleague that he fantasized that she was one of the victims. I wonder why she didn't just call the police.
If only there had been other opportunities: hundreds of indigenous women in this country are missing, going back decades. Don’t be fooled, their lost bodies aren't lying in nice coffins in proper graves with their hands crossed peacefully over their chests. Unlike Mr. Ghomeshi’s alleged victims as described by the Toronto Star, these dozens and dozens and dozens of women generally weren't “educated and employed.” That’s why they can’t ignite change, I guess.
So, this is the time to act? What was wrong last year, when Ottawa’s Mark Hutt was finally found guilty of murdering his wife, Donna Jones, in 2009? After years of obscene physical and emotional abuse, Mr. Hutt threw a pot of boiling water on Ms. Jones, then locked her in the basement. It took her three days to die. The autopsy found that she had nine fractured ribs and 29 air gun pellets in her body. Not dramatic enough to rally around, it seems.
I don’t get it. I don’t get what is known now that was a mystery yesterday – or why what was ignored yesterday is now so urgent to address. All that’s different now is that we know one guy’s name, and that guy happens to be famous.
We’ve already learned how at least one journalism instructor kept his female students from interning with Mr. Ghomeshi, slapping a Band-Aid on a festering sore. As the story grows, I’m sure we’ll hear how star power and fearful bureaucracy let this open secret grow into an open wound: be advised that this broken system is not the CBC, or journalism, or Canada – but the whole world.
One of the women who came forward about Mr. Ghomeshi is my friend Reva Seth. I met Reva when we were about eight years old, but neither one of us shared these experiences before. Think about two eight-year-olds, and then two grown women carrying their histories of violence. It should drive you to wild grief, but it’s not a secret, or a mystery.
I’m not swayed by the newly enlightened, standing with outstretched, protective arms, advising victims of violence that there's no longer a need to be ashamed or afraid of coming forward. Let me tell you what too many have heard, and will continue to hear, perhaps forever.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.I don’t believe you.
Denise Balkissoon's piece was titled:
Sorry, we haven't reached a watershed on violence against women
It appeared as a special to the Globe and Mail and was published, November 5, 2014.
Balkissoon is a Toronto writer and Editor-in-chief of The Ethnic Aisle.