If any good has come of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, it's that there's an open and frank discussion about why women who've been sexually assaulted or abused are afraid to come forward. Numerous credible articles in mainstream and online media have detailed the difficulties and risks of pursuing sexual assault allegations. The extensive public debate has spurred women who've suffered in silence to come forward with their own stories. Ghomeshi's accusers have found strength in numbers to the point where two of them (so far) have put their names to the allegations against the disgraced CBC host, prompting Toronto police to open a criminal investigation. Almost overnight, those of us untouched by or unschooled as experts in sexual exploitation have been given a far better understanding of the victim's plight.
That's the silver lining in this dark and horrible cloud. One of the many downsides is that the story has been so widely reported and viscerally debated that it's building barricades between the genders. Even the most ardent feminist knows that the vast majority of men are not sexual predators, but the ones who are don't wear it like a badge, and if a guy as glib and charming as Ghomeshi was able to fool his potential victims before the other shoe dropped, who can a woman really trust when she's deciding whether to take a relationship to the next level? At the same time, how are men supposed to approach women if they're under the apprehension that every flirtatious comment or physical gesture could be construed as predatory? And whether or not he deserved it, Ghomeshi's ugly undoing in the court of public opinion is a cautionary tale of how careers and lives can be summarily destroyed in the social media age.
Healthy relationships are built on trust, but trust will be hard-earned post-Ghomeshi. The revelations and discourse of the past eight days can't help but plant seeds of doubt and suspicion between men and women, for very different but equally valid reasons.