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I Spoke About Jian Before Knowing the Facts

10/27/2014 06:34 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST
Keith Beaty via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 30: Big interview with CBC star Jian Ghomeshi on the occasion of his new book about his youth and music: 1982. (Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

I tweeted my support for Jian yesterday before seeing the newspaper reported in today's Toronto Star. Due to my schedule in Parliament, I did not have a chance to read the Toronto Star story until after Question Period.

I have also read the clear legal analysis from Brenda Cossman in the Globe and Mail.

Violent attacks on women are not acceptable. Full stop. As Professor Cossman points out, consent can never be given to physical attacks such as those described in the Toronto Star story.

Too many women over too many years have been disbelieved and blamed. In saying, as I will continue to say, that anyone in our society is entitled to the presumption of innocence, I am not in any way disbelieving the women who state they were assaulted. I cannot know who is telling the truth here and no one can. As a feminist, I would never discount a story of violent attack. The nature of the stories is very disturbing.

I apologize to those who feel I let them down by appearing to "take sides" and disbelieve the women who were interviewed by the Toronto Star. I fully acknowledge the difficulties that survivors of sexual violence face when confronting the criminal justice system and the terrifying public repercussions that too often greet women who accuse men. It is a sad fact about our society that only 10 per cent of all sexual assaults are reported to police. I also recognize the role of social media has in creating a toxic environment for women to speak out. For these reasons alone, it`s perfectly understandable that they wish to remain anonymous.

I know Jian in one set of circumstances -- as a friend. I also know that humans are multifaceted. As he grieves the death of his father, the sudden loss of his job and faces a deeply terrible time, all I can offer is my compassion.

To the anonymous women, I offer you that same compassion and support. This is a tragic story.

This originally appeared on Elizabeth May's website.

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