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If Thomson Was Groped, Why Not Press Charges?

03/11/2013 12:09 EDT | Updated 05/11/2013 05:12 EDT
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Whoever came up with the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" was a damn fool. For what can we actually glean from the photo of Toronto mayor Rob Ford and former mayoral candidate Sara Thomson at an event in Toronto last Thursday night? From my view, just two benign bits of information:

1. Ford's shirt is stained.

2. Thomson is smiling, widely.

Now, we can attempt to extrapolate from these bare details if we please -- Ford's shirt is dirty because in his drunken state, as alleged by Thomson, he spilled something on himself; Thomson's smiling countenance is hiding anger and shock and pain after being groped and propositioned, as the Toronto Star's Heather Mallick has suggested.

Then again, maybe Ford, who is not the most graceful of creatures at the best of times, merely knocked over a harmless glass of water by accident. And perhaps Thomson's smile reflects a mischievous scheme she's been concocting in her head to accuse Ford of sexual and verbal assault just as soon as she could log on to Facebook and attach said photo.

It should go without saying that Thomson's allegations must be investigated -- even though she herself has bizarrely refused to press charges thus far. Sexual assault is always a contemptible offence, and should be punished harshly, but it is more so when the accused represents an entire city of people. If Ford did indeed grab Thomson's buttocks, he must be prosecuted and removed from his job. And if Thomson has made up the whole thing -- to add fuel to her next mayoral campaign or simply to frame her former opponent -- her political career will be ruined and she might very well be fired from her job. She has a lot to lose here, too.

As for those who have taken to vilifying Ms. Thomson -- predominantly on social media -- for making her accusations, this is unfortunate but also unavoidable. It is certainly true women must be taught the essential thing to do in instances of assault is to speak out, loudly and immediately, because even if the alleged perpetrator is never prosecuted, publicizing the crime will make the perv and others like him think twice before they next cop a feel. Maybe more important than that, it reinforces what we try to teach women: If you don't say anything, the sickos win. If Ford did what she said he did, Thomson is a very brave woman for coming forward.

Still, I find it hard to blame those who have questioned Thomson's story on account of lack of evidence, the fact her story changed somewhat during the course of her Friday media tour and, yes, even her smiling face in the photograph.

There is also her attempt to get Ford to grope one of her colleagues, which, frankly, makes no sense. Most damning is the fact she has not pressed charges -- having made her version of the facts so public, why didn't she act within her legal right?

Perhaps she was/is still shocked by the incident and fearful of the repercussions of a legal battle, but it is her duty as a woman -- moreover as a woman with a public profile -- to take the next step and get law enforcement involved. A Facebook post isn't enough.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ford keeps bumbling along from one scandal to the next -- how he manages to get any political work done amid all the accusations (some proven true if not actionable) is beyond me. I suppose it's too much to ask that he resign so Toronto could stop being a laughingstock, but it's completely reasonable to request he not run again -- surely there is another GTA pol who could eliminate the gravy train without spilling everywhere along the way.

It's not unreasonable to assume that, if Thomson is proven to be a liar, he will use this episode to his political advantage, which would be to his great shame. One envisions the mayor blaming this sad story on downtown Toronto elites when what he should do is use his position for some good -- to speak out against sexual assault and encourage women to speak up when they are victimized.

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