CBC Host Announces Firing, Implies BDSM as Reason – Victims Come Forward

**This post is regarding a current event, and is subject to edits as new information becomes available. Please note that this is not an opinion piece, but instead a recitation of the facts as are publicly known.** Jian Ghomeshi, formerly host of a very popular radio show called Q on CBC and former member of Canadian satirical folk-pop group Moxy Fruvous, today

jianghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi, from his Facebook profile

(October 26, 2014) announced his firing from the Canadian public broadcaster. He also announced he has begun motions to sue for $50 million in damages, citing his belief that he was fired for his sexual preferences. On Thursday Jian and the CBC reported that Ghomeshi was taking a personal leave, with Jian stating that he was still in emotional turmoil after the recent passing of his father. In June 2013, a freelance writer published a piece through XOJane in which she dropped hints to Ghomeshi’s identity and alleged that he had harassed her, by saying that he ignored her request to stop pursuing her. She, in turn, was accused by others of trying to use discussion of rape culture and his ‘star power’ as leverage in her writing career. The CBC, earlier in the day, put out a press release saying that it is parting ways with Ghomeshi after receiving ‘information’, and took to Twitter. cbctweet Jian took to Facebook (and a link from Twitter) to address his firing, including references to BDSM, with the below comments:
Ghomeshi tweet

Tweet from Ghomeshi’s account

From Facebook:
Dear everyone, I am writing today because I want you to be the first to know some news. This has been the hardest time of my life. I am reeling from the loss of my father. I am in deep personal pain and worried about my mom. And now my world has been rocked by so much more. Today, I was fired from the CBC. For almost 8 years I have been the host of a show I co-created on CBC called Q. It has been my pride and joy. My fantastic team on Q are super-talented and have helped build something beautiful. I have always operated on the principle of doing my best to maintain a dignity and a commitment to openness and truth, both on and off the air. I have conducted major interviews, supported Canadian talent, and spoken out loudly in my audio essays about ideas, issues, and my love for this country. All of that is available for anyone to hear or watch. I have known, of course, that not everyone always agrees with my opinions or my style, but I’ve never been anything but honest. I have doggedly defended the CBC and embraced public broadcasting. This is a brand I’ve been honoured to help grow. All this has now changed. Today I was fired from the company where I’ve been working for almost 14 years – stripped from my show, barred from the building and separated from my colleagues. I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision. But I am not going to do that. Because that would be untrue. Because I’ve been fired. And because I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer. As friends and family of mine, you are owed the truth. I have commenced legal proceedings against the CBC, what’s important to me is that you know what happened and why. Forgive me if what follows may be shocking to some. I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners. About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do. I have never discussed my private life before. Sexual preferences are a human right. Despite a strong connection between us it became clear to me that our on-and-off dating was unlikely to grow into a larger relationship and I ended things in the beginning of this year. She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others. After this, in the early spring there began a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety. It came to light that a woman had begun anonymously reaching out to people that I had dated (via Facebook) to tell them she had been a
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victim of abusive relations with me. In other words, someone was reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious. I learned – through one of my friends who got in contact with this person – that someone had rifled through my phone on one occasion and taken down the names of any woman I had seemed to have been dating in recent years. This person had begun methodically contacting them to try to build a story against me. Increasingly, female friends and ex-girlfriends of mine told me about these attempts to smear me. Someone also began colluding with a freelance writer who was known not to be a fan of mine and, together, they set out to try to find corroborators to build a case to defame me. She found some sympathetic ears by painting herself as a victim and turned this into a campaign. The writer boldly started contacting my friends, acquaintances and even work colleagues – all of whom came to me to tell me this was happening and all of whom recognized it as a trumped up way to attack me and undermine my reputation. Everyone contacted would ask the same question, if I had engaged in non-consensual behavior why was the place to address this the media? The writer tried to peddle the story and, at one point, a major Canadian media publication did due diligence but never printed a story. One assumes they recognized these attempts to recast my sexual behaviour were fabrications. Still, the spectre of mud being flung onto the Internet where online outrage can demonize someone before facts can refute false allegations has been what I’ve had to live with. And this leads us to today and this moment. I’ve lived with the threat that this stuff would be thrown out there to defame me. And I would sue. But it would do the reputational damage to me it was intended to do (the ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations). But with me bringing it to light, in the coming days you will prospectively hear about how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie. But it will be salacious gossip in a world driven by a hunger for “scandal”. And there will be those who choose to believe it and to hate me or to laugh at me. And there will be an attempt to pile on. And there will be the claim that there are a few women involved (those who colluded with my ex) in an attempt to show a “pattern of behaviour”. And it will be based in lies but damage will be done. But I am telling you this story in the hopes that the truth will, finally, conquer all. I have been open with the CBC about this since these categorically untrue allegations ramped up. I have never believed it was anyone’s business what I do in my private affairs but I wanted my bosses to be aware that this attempt to smear me was out there. CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months. On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. I did this in good faith and because I know, as I have always known, that I have nothing to hide. This when the CBC decided to fire me. CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. In fact, they later said to me and my team that there is no question in their minds that there has always been consent. They said they’re not concerned about the legal side. But then they said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC. They said that I was being dismissed for “the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out.” To recap, I am being fired in my prime from the show I love and built and threw myself into for years because of what I do in my private life. Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life. But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life. And so, with no formal allegations, no formal complaints, no complaints, not one, to the HR department at the CBC (they told us they’d done a thorough check and were satisfied), and no charges, I have lost my job based on a campaign of vengeance. Two weeks after the death of my beautiful father I have been fired from the CBC because of what I do in my private life. I have loved the CBC. The Q team are the best group of people in the land. My colleagues and producers and on-air talent at the CBC are unparalleled in being some of the best in the business. I have always tried to be a good soldier and do a good job for my country. I am still in shock. But I am telling this story to you so the truth is heard. And to bring an end to the nightmare.

OntarioKink.com has reached out to Ghomeshi for comment on his Facebook post. Within hours of Ghomeshi publishing his post to Facebook, The Toronto Star confronted his claims. From the Star’s story:

Over the past few months the Star has approached Ghomeshi with allegations from three young women, all about 20 years his junior, who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the lead-up to sexual encounters.

The story goes on to say:

They allege he struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.

The Star alleges that the women approached The Star, rather than the police following the experience of Carla Ciccone, the writer published by XOJane, who received thousands of comments in support of Mr. Ghomeshi, and was accused of writing the article simply to further her own career at the expense of another’s. The Star also notes that one of the alleged victims was an employee at the CBC, who did not date Ghomeshi. She is reported to have approached a union representative in regards to an incident in which she says Ghomeshi “approached her from behind and cupped her rear end in the Q studio, and that he quietly told her at a story meeting that he wanted to ‘hate f—‘ her.” The Star notes that the woman says her complaint to the union fell on deaf ears within the CBC, as a producer for the program asked “what she could do to make this a less toxic workplace”, but did not take any further action in regards to the alleged incident. Carmel Smyth, president of the Canadian Media Guild union which Ghomeshi and other CBC employees belong to, commented on the controversy. “We have no record of anyone filing a formal complaint related to this issue at any time,” Smyth said.

Toronto Police Services Constable David Hopkinson confirmed that the law enforcement agency has received no reports or complaints against Ghomeshi, and is not looking at investigating the issue at this time.
Hopkinson elaborated that although detectives can initiate an investigation following media reports, there is currently no evidence suggesting that further investigation is warranted. He also elaborated that usually it would require a formal complaint filed by an accuser to initiate such a probe.
Click here for the full article in the National Post.

  In another article, defending The Star’s decision to print their article about the allegations against Ghomeshi, Star editor Michael Cook noted:

The reason The Star did not publish a story at that time was because there was no proof the women’s allegations of non-consensual abusive sex were true or false. They were so explosive that to print them would have been irresponsible, and would have fallen far short of the Star’s standards of accuracy and fairness.

It remains to be seen why The Star believes that publishing the accusations is now fair, accurate, and responsible. Please remember that this story is a current event, and that details will likely emerge and be reported here. Andrea Zanin, a BDSM educator pursuing a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University in Toronto, has published an excellent blog putting the developments into perspective here. One highlight, concerning why kinksters should be cautious when it comes to taking sides on cases such as this says:

I don’t wish to be complicit in someone’s misappropriation of BDSM terminology and codes as a shield for rape and assault. So when this defence comes up, my immediate reaction is to listen very carefully, read everything I can find on a given instance, and hold back on my knee-jerk inclination to side with the “persecuted pervert.” Persecuted perverts do exist, absolutely. But we don’t know, until we hear the full story, whether that’s what’s really going on – or if we’re being thrown under the bus by someone who’s no friend to sadomasochism.

Please take a moment to view Andrea’s work here. On Tuesday (October 28th) the CBC circulated an internal memo indicating that they had launched an internal ‘continuing investigation’, after learning about the incident reported in the Toronto Star, in which Ghomeshi allegedly touched a coworker without consent and told her that he wanted to ‘hate fuck’ her. In the memo, the broadcaster also encouraged anyone with concerns to come forward, and stated it’s intent to support it’s employees. CTV News quoted sex blogger and Toronto kink community member Andrea Zanin on Tuesday (October 28):

People who are dominant in a BDSM relationship — sometimes called “tops” — often worry about the limits they face, she said.

“It’s every top’s worst nightmare that something they did they thought was OK would be misinterpreted and they would get in a lot of trouble,” said Zanin, who publishes the Sexgeek blog.

“We talk about consent a lot and it’s a huge concern,” she said.

“And there is also a huge concern in the sado-masochistic community at the same time about people who use what we do as a cover for assault.”

  Writing for Gawker Media blog site Jezebel.com, writer, activist, and professional dominatrix Margaret Corvid gave her take on the situation on October 28th. In the following quote, she focuses on how Ghomeshi’s claim of consensual BDSM might be attempting to take advantage of positive movement in terms of the way the public is beginning to view kink, and the damage his claim could cause:

Kinksters have spent years patiently explaining the difference between kink and abuse to the media. It’s not just an abstract point. Abuse or BDSM can look the same if you only consider the shrieking, writhing person being restrained, beaten and shagged silly. It has taken a monumental effort by kink activists to convince media to observe the careful, patient negotiation that happens before that moment, in a consensual kinky scene—and Ghomeshi’s current press strategy seeks to take advantage of the knowledge gap that still remains. Poor understanding of BDSM gives abusers a green light for their abuse, and tricks vulnerable people into dangerous, violating situations. In calling his behavior legitimate kink, Ghomeshi stands to undo all of our hard work, and by spinning himself as a victim, he is using the name of a good cause to distract from serious, repeated claims of abuse.

Late on October 29th, The Toronto Star published an article reporting that 4 more women had stepped forward with similar stories of being attacked by Ghomeshi, bringing the total to 8. The known alleged incidents have all occurred between 2002 to the present, suggesting a long history of consent violations. Actress Lucy DeCoutere, best known for appearances on The Trailer Park Boys, became the first woman to publicly speak about her experience with Ghomeshi. DeCoutere told The Star about an incident in 2003, when she says that Ghomeshi “without warning or consent, choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head.”

“He did not ask if I was into it. It was never a question. It was shocking to me. The men I have spent time with are loving people.” -Lucy DeCoutere

On October 26, Decoutere posted a status to Facebook, expressing her disappointment with the way Ghomeshi initiated a ‘smear campaign’ against past partners out of fear of becoming a known abuser.

Facebook Post from DeCoutere

-From DeCoutere’s Facebook profile

DeCoutere says that she doesn’t recall telling him to stop, but said that her facial expression “turned very serious”. She says Ghomeshi was no longer violent after that, and she left within an hour. She saw Ghomeshi two more times that weekend but they did not discuss the incident, nor did further violent incidents occurred. DeCoutere commented that she had no physical marks on her body from Ghomeshi’s actions and did not report the incident to the police, partially because she felt there were too many holes in her story. She spoke with CBC Radio’s The Current in an interview that aired Thursday October 30th, and detailed her experience. The other women, who have chosen to remain anonymous at this time, met Ghomeshi under a wide range of circumstances – some were CBC staffers, others at film festivals, concerts, or CBC events, and still others on tour while promoting his book. Two of the alleged victims reported a strange tale about a stuffed toy owned by Ghomeshi that he called ‘Big Ears Teddy’ which he apparently turned around before committing non-consensual acts of violence against the women, saying “Big Ears Teddy shouldn’t see this.” Ghomeshi mentioned ‘Big Ears Teddy’ at a public speaking engagement on July 5, 2014 at the Stratford Festival. He explained to the audience that he obtained the toy bear at the suggestion of his therapist, as a way to deal with stressful situations. He went on to say that he suffers from ‘general anxiety disorder’, and the bear is part of his ‘safety net’.
“The idea is taking solace in not being alone,” said Ghomeshi. “Everyone is neurotic. My idols are neurotic … Successful, talented creative people, in my experience I’ve discovered, are all either neurotic or insecure or freaked out in some way or another.”

  On October 29th, the CBC reached out to OntarioKink.com’s MasterMatt84 requesting an interview for The Current, regarding consent within the kink community. While he was unable to do the interview, he did put the producer in touch with a number of other kinksters/educators. The interview will air on CBC and XM Radio either this morning (October 30th) or the following day, and we’ll report the highlights after they happen. Also on October 29th, Dan Savage posted an interview with someone that had approached him, claiming to be have been involved in a relationship with Ghomeshi. The woman apparently was shocked by what she has heard, and wanted her positive experience with the man to be documented along with the allegations that have been made. Savage took efforts to substantiate her claims, and decided to post the interview. Click here to see it. One part of the interview offers a conflicting account of Ghomeshi’s approach to kink, suggesting that he had negotiated scenes and taken care to stop activities the woman was not enjoying:

Can you describe the conversations you had with Jian about consent? We would send lots of messages to each other, sexual messages, all the time. One time he said something like, “I want to destroy you,” and I said, “I’m not comfortable with that word,” and he said, “Okay, I won’t say stuff like that if it doesn’t turn you on.” So my experience with Jian was that he wanted it to be fun for both people. Because that one time where it looked like I was uncomfortable in the moment, that time when he “destroy,” and it was very import to him that that not happen—he didn’t want to do or say things that I didn’t like too. I always go back to how he stopped the sex that morning. I didn’t stop it. He stopped it because of the look on my face.

It’s important to note that although this woman allegedly had an excellent relationship with Ghomeshi, in which consent played a large part, that does not mean that non-consensual acts didn’t occur – it merely means that Ghomeshi was, at least at times, concerned with consent and understood it. On Thursday October 30, one week to the day from Ghomeshi’s last broadcast on Q, the CBC announced that it was in the process of hiring a third party company to conduct an investigation into the behaviour of Jian. Heather Conway, Executive Vice President of English Services commented in the memo:

“Over the last 12 hours, as you undoubtedly already know, we have become aware of further accounts of impropriety towards our employees (and other individuals) through another Toronto Star story, on As It Happens last night and again this morning on The Current. These reports are extremely disturbing and of great concern to all of us.”

Also on October 30th, Navigator Ltd., the Toronto-based high-stakes public strategy and communications firm Ghomeshi hired after being let go by the CBC, released a statement signalling it’s decision to separate itself from it’s embattled client:

In response to numerous media requests, Navigator confirms it does not advise Jian Ghomeshi. Regrettably, the circumstances of our engagement have changed and we are no longer able to continue. No further comment will be issued.

Following suit rock-it promotions, Ghomeshi’s publicist, also Tweeted that it had parted ways with the former star:

rock-it promotions tweet

Publicity firm rock-it promotions cut ties with Ghomeshi by releasing this Tweet, while it had not taken steps to remove references to him from their website.

In a Facebook post that lacked the obvious finesse of Navigator Ltd., Ghomeshi said:
Ghomeshi's Facebook post

Facebook status posted on October 30, 2014

Following Ghomeshi’s Facebook post, The Huffington post published an article by lawyer and author Reva Seth, who has now become the second woman to step forward publicly with her experience.
We had a drink, we smoked some pot and we hung out chatting. A while later we started kissing. Suddenly, it was like he became a different person. He was super angry, almost frenzied and disassociated. I distinctly remember the jarring sense of suddenly being abruptly shaken out of my reverie. I remember thinking “what the fuck is going on here? What’s wrong with him?” Jian had his hands around my throat, had pulled down my pants and was aggressively and violently penetrating me with his fingers. When it was over, I got up and it was clear I was really angry. My sexual interactions until then had always been consensual, enjoyable and fun.

Seth says it was the courage of Lucy DeCoutere that caused her to finally come forward with her own story. It is clear from the tales of the women that have come forward so that that explicit consent was not given to Mr. Ghomeshi, in at least some of the incidents that have been made known. Without consent, the choking and hitting, which some kinksters do enjoy consensually, is no longer kink. It is assault. mattblogsigred-01  

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