Grey Matter

One of the things that really bothers me about the world is the utter lack of, what I feel, is common sense.

We live in an era of information but not necessarily an era of good information. News, which was once controlled by newspaper editors, radio, and television broadcasters is now available from a myriad of sources at our fingertips.

On the one hand, this gives us the ability to access truths we never would have been able to before. If an article in the paper tells us (for a ridiculous example) that everyone in the Philippines wears the colour blue at all times, we no longer have to trust that’s correct. We can reach out on forums and ask actual residents of the Philippines or keep eye on social media to find that such a statement is utterly ridiculous or a simplification or indeed true.

On the other hand, people are intensely lazy and having the ability to access truth does not mean that we do.

As someone who believes that truth is complicated and important, as well as an information professional, this fucking kills me.

During my Masters, I did a group thesis with an amazing group of people. We looked at specifically how smart phone technology was used for information in pub settings. Unsurprisingly, we found it was often used to prove a point or refute someone else’s point. Even more unsurprisingly, we found that people would use the quickest resource rather than the most reputable one and most people didn’t check their sources.

My point here is that information is nuanced and people aren’t really into that.

Think of every movie you’ve ever seen. Chances are that the majority of them had fairly clear lines between what is truth or lie, what is good or bad.

While that is intensely satisfying for us as people (mmmmm, sweet, sweet, self-assured closure), it’s not realistic.

In real life, there are so many factors and pieces of information to consider in a situation that there is no real clear line. Sometimes that line is in sharper focus than others, but there’s almost always blurring around the edges.

The reason I’m ranting and bringing all of this up is because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, in part due to the Jian Ghomeshi trial.

Now, before you decide to yell at me one way or the other I want to be clear about two things:

  1. I will always default to believing victims of sexual assault because it is statistically far more likely to be true than false. I can count on one hand the amount of women I know who have not ever been assaulted in some way.
  2. I am not about to argue about whether or not Ghomeshi is guilty. I am about to argue that there is a larger problem here altogether.

Our society has updated a lot of things really quickly.

In one way, that’s pretty amazing and great but it also causes a few problems.

It’s like anything else, when you do things quickly you miss stuff you would have noticed if you’d gone more slowly.

I really feel like our justice system is out of date-especially when it comes to sexual assault.

If you read the comments on any article about the Ghomeshi trial (I REALLY don’t recommend doing it unless you want to be upset, regardless of what side you’re on) there are a lot of people saying things like “If they were really a victim they would have done this or not done that”


Any mental health professional worth their salt will tell you that people respond to trauma in a variety of ways that are way too complex to be boiled down to a list of things victims do or don’t do.

Yet, somehow, our legal system doesn’t take this into account.

Almost every sexual assault case turns into an attack on the credibility of the alleged victim.

Now you might say that the onus should be on the Crown to call a mental health professional, but I disagree. I think that a psychological evaluation of both victim and accused should be a mandatory component of sexual assault cases and I think it should be conducted by an impartial mental health professional who specializes in sexual assault.

It is unreasonable, to me, to expect a judge to know or understand the motivations behind a victim’s actions. Judges are taught to look for inconsistencies, but they aren’t taught to see when inconsistencies are a symptom of a mental health issue like trauma.

Imagine you give someone facts written on cards that say: Jack snuck up on Terry. Jack physically forced Terry out of the house. Jack locked Terry out of the house.La maison appartenait à Jack et Terry avait cassé en .

Now imagine that person doesn’t speak French. Kind of looks like Jack’s an asshole in that case. However, if the person does speak French, they know that it was Jack’s house all along and Terry broke in.

To me, this is the same idea when it comes to Judges in sexual assault cases. Was the victim’s testimony inconsistent because they’re lying or was it incorrect because it’s a side effect of their trauma? You can’t provide a fair judgment without and answer to that question.

This isn’t even to being to mention or get into the fact that a victim is not and should not be responsible for the actions of an attacker.

The truth is that there is no easy answer to any of this. People tend to default to what is easiest for them to understand and unfortunately that means that often the burden of proof falls on the victim being forced to justify how they behaved or did not behave after a traumatic experience as some sort of twisted means of proving the experience happened at all.

I don’t know what the answer is but I do think that bringing in a mental health professional as a means of potentially preventing victims from being blamed for trauma induced behaviour is a step we can and should take.

Beyond that, I don’t know.

The truth is complicated and nuanced.

I wish people would remember that instead being so busy feeling self-righteous and insulting each other when they don’t have the same opinions.


Posted on March 25, 2016, in Serious Life Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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