Dianna Graves has spent years helping victims of sexual assault in Saskatchewan, but when she heard the verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi trial, she said she was crushed.
Graves is the executive director of Sexual Assault Services Saskatchewan and has been following the Ghomeshi trial very closely along with many of her colleagues. She expects the not-guilty verdict in such a highly public case may discourage more victims from reporting sexual assault.
“It’s so hard just in general for somebody to come to the police, it takes a huge amount of courage for anybody that’s not in the public spotlight,” she said.
To Graves, the way the women were treated on the witness stand likely left them feeling humiliated, disgraced and shamed all over again years after the event.
“Now they’re just discredited for telling the truth as they remember it and as they see it from their trauma-based stance,” she said.
Graves said the concept of trauma-informed response is starting to be recognized. She maintains that when you experience a traumatic event, your brain goes into a state of survival, and that’s why you don’t recall all details.
“So when we’re asked to recount well why our initial testimony is different from our current testimony, you know what is wrong why are we lying? It has nothing to do with lying. It’s just the way we happen to remember it at the time,” Graves explained.
She said the Ghomeshi case shows the need for the justice system to change how it treats victims. When asked how to do that while maintaining the burden of proof and truthful testimony, she admitted she doesn’t have the answers.
Graves said statistics show that the vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported and the conviction rate is even lower.
She encourages people who have been sexually assaulted to come forward and speak out. Whether they chose to file charges or not, she said Sexual Assault Services can still provide support and counseling.