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The Judge In The Ghomeshi Trial Said It’s “Dangerous” To Think Survivors Are Always Truthful

What the judge called a "dangerous false assumption."

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While many people expressed disappointment with the verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi trial, there was one particular passage that has people talking.

Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Judge William Horkins spent more than an hour reading his decision in the case that saw Ghomeshi, a former CBC radio host, facing five charges of sexual assault.

Much of Horkins' verdict focused not on Ghomeshi — who chose not to testify — but on the three female complainants and their credibility. He found that there were inconsistencies in what the women told police and what they told the courts.

"When a witness is comfortable with giving differing versions of the same event, it suggests a degree of carelessness with the truth that diminishes the general reliability of the witness," he wrote.

Toward the end of the verdict, moments before declaring Ghomeshi not guilty. Horkins said that courts must be "very cautious" when evaluating the testimony of complainants in cases of sexual assault and abuse.

Specifically, he said courts must be careful to avoid "false stereotypes" when it comes to the behaviour of complainants. This is of particular relevance in this case where the actions of the women after the alleged assaults became a key part of the defence's strategy.

Then he said this:

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.

"The standard of proof in a criminal case requires sufficient clarity in the evidence to allow a confident acceptance of the essential facts," he added.

The quote appears to imply that believing those who say they've been sexually assaulted is just as problematic as the myths surrounding survivors — better known as rape culture. This didn't sit well with many people.

what about the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always lying?

I think the stereotype worth fighting against is that sexual assault complainants are lying. #Ghomeshi https://t.co/f5omUiUbIp

Women in the #Ghomeshi case were denied even the basic justice of respect, because believing their stories would have been "dangerous"

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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