Darshan Kang and the arithmetic of sexual assault - Macleans.ca

Darshan Kang and the arithmetic of sexual assault

It took almost 60 complainants to bring Bill Cosby to trial. It was in the double digits for Jian Ghomeshi. Two for Darshan Kang to resign from caucus. Why does the number need to be more than one?

Jian Ghomeshi (middle) leaves with co counsel Danielle Robitaille (left) and lawyer Marie Henein.Jian Ghomeshi exits the courthouse after his trial arguments ended. The verdict is to come March 24. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Jian Ghomeshi (middle) leaves with co counsel Danielle Robitaille (left) and lawyer Marie Henein.Jian Ghomeshi exits the courthouse after his trial arguments ended. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, we were provided with an instructive glimpse into the arithmetic of sexual violence when Liberal MP Darshan Kang resigned from caucus. Kang stepped down 21 days after the Hill Times revealed on Aug. 11  that the Calgary Skyview MP was under House of Commons investigation for sexual harassment; an unnamed female staffer at his constituency office had registered a complaint. Even a damning allegation made two days previously that the MP attempted to buy the woman’s silence, a claim Kang denied, didn’t change his caucus status (the rookie MP went on “medical leave” earlier in the week for “stress”). Tuesday, the day of the pay-out allegation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to  comment on the charges for the second straight day; he told reporters that the complaint would be handled through a recently created independent process for resolving “misconduct complaints” and that he’ll let the process “unfold as it should.” Sheila Malcolmson, NDP critic for the status of women, vented her frustration: “This is not the leadership of a feminist prime minister,” she said in a statement. “Until such time as a full investigation can be completed Mr. Kang should not sit as a member of the governing party.”

Circumstances reversed suddenly on Thursday after a second woman who’d worked in Kang’s constituency office when he was a MLA in the Alberta legislature came forward. Kirstin Morrell, who worked for Kang between 2011-12, accused the MP of repeatedly groping and kissing her against her will;  he had a “problem with consent,” she said. Kang, who denied the allegations, resigned hours later.

So to recap: one allegation from a young female subordinate wasn’t enough to warrant either Kang’s suspension or resignation—it took two women, one willing to be named. Let’s compare that to the public dispatch with which Trudeau suspended two Liberal MPs in November 2014 after two female NDP MPs accused them of  “personal misconduct” just days earlier (that “misconduct” included one of the women saying one of the men had sex with her without her explicit consent). Five months later, Trudeau booted Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from the Liberal Party of Canada. As to the difference between the two incidents, one can only speculate. Is the word of women elected to office more credible than that of a low-level female staffer? Did the fact Trudeau was facing a federal election factor into events? That election saw Darshan Kang become one of  two Liberals elected as MPs in Calgary for the first time in nearly half a century.

READ: Jailing sexual assault victims shows we must rethink sexual violence

Such algebra, sadly, is hardwired into how sexual violence is perceived—the lesson being that again and again, the lone voice is not enough. Of course, false allegations of sexual violence do occur, though they are the exception: copious research pegs incidence at two percent to 10 percent. Certainly anyone reporting a powerful figure, like a politician, faces the additional paradox of being distrusted for the very reason that making such a serious charge can mask a hidden agenda.

The far more common story, one played out in headlines, is that one voice is insufficient, especially when that voice is powerless. In the cases of both Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it took a village of voices before sexual assault or harassment complaints were taken seriously, and often not even then. When Andrea Constand came forward in January 2005 to report that Bill Cosby drugged and sexual assaulted her, the district attorney in Montgomery County, Pa., found “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.” Even dozens of women emboldened to report minor variations of the same story, a number adjacent to 60, didn’t result in criminal charges.

It was two men in fact that made that happen: in October 2014, stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby out (“You rape women, Bill Cosby”) in a video that went viral; the next year, a judge unsealed Cosby’s deposition in Constand’s civil case in which Cosby admitted he gave Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with, which inspired officials to reopen Constand’s case.

READ MORE: Bill Cosby’s creepy ideas about women and sex go back decades

As for Ghomeshi, it was not allegations made by a former girlfriend of Ghomeshi that lead to his ouster; it was an explicit video in which a woman displayed bruises and a cracked rib inflicted by the then-CBC radio host that compelled CBC executives to announce their marquee performer would take an “undetermined” leave from his job “to deal with some personal issues.” (Even the spectre of the broken and battered woman wasn’t enough to provoke the CBC execs to go to the police.) When a double-digit parade of women came forward with accusations of sexual violence against Ghomeshi, Toronto police encouraged women to file criminal reports.

RELATED: Jian Ghomeshi: How he got away with it

Not that the cops are exempt from sexual violence accusations, seen in the recent acquittal of three Toronto police officers (Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara, and Joshua Cabero) charged with sexually assaulting a rookie female parking enforcement colleague during Rookie Buy Night in which newbies buy the drinks. That case of “she-said” versus “he-said, he-said, he-said” ended with Justice Anne Molloy’s ruling that the complainant’s evidence was not credible enough for a finding of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” due to inconsistencies, unreliable memories and contradictory video. The judge said she “looked in vain” for evidence to corroborate evidence given by the complainant who testified she felt “powerless.” She also expressed doubt about testimony provided by Nyznik, the only officer to address the court; it was “stilted or somewhat scripted,” she said, adding that the officer’s account of the sexual acts “simply did not ring true.”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has yet to announce what disciplinary action the officers will face. After what the public learned during the trial about the officers’ misogynistic, boorish behaviour—the least of which was one of them pretending to be a porn producer—they should be canned.

In the arithmetic of sexual violence, however, that would come as a surprise. You don’t need to be a math whiz to see the common denominator here: when it comes to prosecuting sexual violence or believing victims, one usually adds up to nothing.



Darshan Kang and the arithmetic of sexual assault

  1. It takes the testimony of 4 women to equal that of one man……in Sharia law.

    We’re worse.

    • You know our secular law is bad when Emily starts commending religious law.

  2. The mainstream media certainly doesn’t seem interested in investigating the Trudeau Liberal’s nomination process for candidates like they were for every Harper bad apple. Or the fuss they are raising about Patrick Brown and PC nominations in ONtario.

    This is 4…count them…4 Liberal MP’s who have been accused of sexual misconduct. Trudeau approved the nomination papers for all 4 of them, some several times. Crickets from the media about responsibility from the top. They are banning candidates for their thoughts and free thinking about certain subjects, but as long as you have politically correct thoughts, they don’t apparently care how you behave.

    • Yep. Canonize Bill Clinton; demonize Trump. Of course, Liberals are #aboveitall

      • The list of Bill Clinton accusers is as long as a Russian novel, yet the leftish media favors the “Donald Trump is a serial groper” narrative. Meanwhile, the same outrage machine that would have been bouncing off the rev limiter had Kang been a Conservative is chugging along just off idle.
        Then you people (journalists) wonder why we conservatives dislike you.

  3. Despite the understandable wish to punish the guilty, “innocent until proven guilty” is still an important legal principle. Immediately punishing anyone accused of a crime without some due process isn’t the way it should work even though we know that many / most of those accused are likely guilty. We shouldn’t be prepared to trample the rights of those who are falsely accused (of anything, not just sexual assault) for the satisfaction of “instant justice” at the cost of sometimes getting it wrong. Since sexual assault is so under-reported and poorly dealt with, there can be an over-reaction to accusations of sexual assault. The system obviously needs to be improved however; we still need to remain even-handed.

    In this case, of course, we are talking about politics not the legal system so it’s a little bit different. Those in political positions who are accused of something serious should have the good grace to voluntarily withdraw from their position until the situation is resolved. All too often that doesn’t happen. Political heat quickly overcomes any assumption of innocence or wish for due process and leads to a much more rapid resolution of the political situation than might otherwise be the case (as it seems to have done in this case).

    • Chris S
      I don’t think yo need to be so adamant about the possibility that justice (for the alleged perp) is not carried out properly. And, I would add, this is not just about the courts and sexual offences. Just try to get justice with the CPSO against a physician who has committed unprofessional behaviour of some kind. I don’t know how many complaints gt dismissed before they are even investigated but even if they are investigated it doesn’t mean anything will show up on the record of the alleged perp or that any record, anywhere, will be kept of the complaint. So it’s not just that more than one person has to make a complaint, but it appears they have to do it collectively.

      Furthermore, you say “Since sexual assault is so under-reported and poorly dealt with, there can be an over-reaction to accusations of sexual assault. ”

      The reason there is an over-reaction to accusations of sexual assault (or any of the typically ‘unwanted’ male behaviour) is that many men (and their female beneficiaries) see it as their right – a basic, male right since the beginning of time.

    • When Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet Minister confessed to a sexual assault (Minister in a position of superiority over an employee…no consent is possible…Feminism 101…a priori it was far beyond just impropriety), instead of reporting the crime to the police, he and the Liberals “paid” off the victim by offering her another job.

      Justin Trudeau had direct evidence and instead of reporting the sexual assault he let the perp walk free.

      • sounds like the catholic church’s response. I guess they do the math as well.

  4. Well drama teachers are not expected to be good at math, and somebody else counts the trust fund baby’s money. BTW how can anybody be suprised at a double standard in the Liberal Party?

  5. “In the cases of both Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it took a village of voices before sexual assault or harassment complaints were taken seriously…”
    Given that the allegations against Ghomeshi were shown to be untrue, the product of collusion and the fabrication of witness’ imaginations, it seems the charges were laid too early. False allegations 10%? Ghomeshis accusers alone make up that amount. Dozens of false allegations, all played out in the media. And this author perpetuating false information to further an agenda.
    Like the witnesses in the ghomeshi trial … your evidence is not credible.

    • Trust Anne Kingston to keep harping on Jian Ghomeshi. He was acquitted because the Crown’s case didn’t hold water. Apparently Anne still believes in trial by public opinion. Shameful.

  6. As for Toronto police – why no call for the firing of the officer who testified that they had sex with someone who was passed out? There was obvious no consent. Not only should they be fired …. they should be charged with sexual assault.
    Why is the author not concerned with admitted sexual assault but instead focused on those who the court has shown had false allegations against them?