After 18 years of social work with survivors of gender violence and offenders, you start to notice a few patterns -- especially with how abusers rationalize how they treat women. They have figured out the rules of the game and take comfort in the ultimate insurance policy: that society protects men who beat and violate women.
Abusers know how to play this game at an elite level. Their behaviour continues, sometimes for many years, where friends, partners, and colleagues are subjected to escalating harassment and violence.
Jian Ghomeshi's fall from grace, is not the story of a fallen CBC icon. Rather the alleged story is a textbook case of how when the issue of gender violence comes up -- we let the public figure use their privilege, skills and networks to simply change the subject. From Woody Allen to Oscar Pistorius -- we have seen how even Bill Cosby's murky past has been silenced. In the ensuing days and weeks, they all follow the same To Do list:
Label yourself as The Victim: Politically inoculate yourself against accusations of violence and rape by pointing out first how you are in fact being persecuted. In this case, that there is a conspiracy of disgruntled girlfriends, freelance journalists and the CBC.
These 'freelance' journalists are respected journalists Kevin Donovan from the Toronto Star and former CBC & Maclean's journalist Jesse Brown. The CBC is a crown corporation with a clear anti-harassment policy for staff. They must be in full compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Make Sure You Undermine the Credibility of the Women: The women who are asking for public accountability are reframed into hysterical ex-girlfriends with a taste for bondage. Let us not forget that Ms. Lucy DeCouture is a Captain in the Canadian Forces.
I wonder, what is the number of complaints needed before allegations are taken seriously? One CBC staff complaint was allegedly dismissed. On Monday, there were three women with a personal vendetta. Is eight women enough? Or do we have a collective 'rape quota' of 15 assaults before a disclosure is taken seriously?
Use Your Brand to Create a Better Story: Solidify your base of power and go directly to your allies i.e. fans on Facebook. They will ensure a very public backlash against anyone who attempts to speak out. Ensure the conversation is about consent and kinky sex, as opposed to violence and assault. Reinforce how you are a nice guy. Make witty literary references and 50 Shades of Grey jokes to highlight your hipster cred. Because after all, haven't we all experienced jealous exes?
We could use this experience as an opportunity. We can create a better to do list: to become better friends, and colleagues to ensure that women can in fact come forward -- instead of experiencing victim-blaming.
We could use this as a chance to examine how employers are responsible for recognizing the warning signs and protecting their employees from workplace violence and harassment. For the past six years, I have managed up to 30 staff. Their safety is my priority.
Or, we could use this opportunity to be manipulated and reinforce attitudes of victim blaming. If we make the wrong choice -- we will all ultimately pay the consequences.
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