Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Trauma Responses and Blindsides: Why Victims Seek Stability in Strange Ways

The media tends to find victim responses to abuse strange. However there’s an easy explanation to why victims try to re-establish good relationships with their abusers. Victims, like everyone else, want stability in their lives. Since prior to the abuse there were positives in the relationship, when an abusive event occurs the victim seeks to re-stabilize the relationship, trying to bring it back to “when it was good.” This is why some will state that they didn’t report because they slept with their rapist boyfriend the day after the rape or any number of other responses that might suggest they consented when they didn’t.

However you don’t see this type of behaviour with stranger assaults. So this raises the question of perceived consent. If a victim continues to be affectionate does this cause the abuser to misunderstand the victim’s response to his abuse? This seems to be one of the defenses that Ghomeshi is attempting. The argument could be made that since each woman was affectionate in some way after the assault that he believes they consented to his attacks. However, if he believed it was consensual that doesn’t explain why he would keep so many emails and letters from former lovers, but we probably won’t get to see that line of questioning.

Everyone seems to be focused on the behaviour of the women. However, the law states that the accused must take reasonable steps to confirm consent, which means the behaviour of any victim is almost legally irrelevant. What did Ghomeshi do to obtain consent? He appears to have done a lot to get “consent” in writing and very little in the moments prior to the assaults. His lawyer is claiming that these women are so “obsessed” with him that they came up with this years after being involved with him, but keeping emails seems much more obsessive than forgetting they existed. His behaviour is weird. He kept emails that he could use to attempt to humiliate his victims so that he could be sure they’d remain silent, and if they didn’t remain silent then he’d get payback by bringing up things that he probably primed them to say. All behaviours commonly used by abusers to control their victims.

Until prosecutors and police educate themselves on the behaviours of predators then they’re going to be fighting every case with an arm tied behind their back. Predators redirect attention away from their behaviour, while the law focuses on their behaviour. Prosecutors need to smarten up and remember what they’re supposed to focus on. Only two questions matter: What steps did the accused take to obtain consent? Could the victim have anticipated what the accused did or were they blindsided?

We shouldn’t accept blindsiding behaviour by abusers or their defense attorney’s. Until predatory behaviour is understood then repeat offenders like Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby will continue to go unprosecuted. Let’s focus on signs of predatory behaviour and stop blaming victims for not expecting it.