New Brunswick

Ghomeshi trial prompts call for 'victim bill of rights'

The director of the Beauséjour Family Resource Centre in Shediac is joining a number of people concerned that the high-profile trial of Jian Ghomeshi will deter women who have been victims of sexual assault from coming forward.

Advocate says victims of sexual assault deserve to have a 'bill of rights' and a lawyer in court

Jian Ghomeshi and his lawyer Marie Henein leave court in Toronto following closing arguments in his sexual assault trial on Thursday. Court will reconvene on March 24. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The director of the Beauséjour Family Crisis Resource Centre in Shediac is joining a growing number of people concerned the high-profile trial of Jian Ghomeshi will deter women who have been victims of sexual assault from coming forward.

Kristal LeBlanc says the "aggressive tactics" used to discredit women during cross examination at the sexual assault and choking trial of Ghomeshi are typical, but she says she worries the approach will scare many into silence.

"I think if anyone was watching, you'd understand why ... every time they have to tell their story again and it gets picked apart, they do experience a lot of secondary trauma," LeBlanc said.

"It's discouraging for advocates because we're 2016, we're not in the 80s anymore ... amazing women have made strides when it comes to what consent means, and I feel like every time we take two steps forward in our community efforts ... we're taking four or five backwards."

Victims need more support

LeBlanc argues the level of "victim blaming" makes it clear that women need more support throughout the criminal justice process.
Kristal LeBlanc would like to see better supports in place for victims of sexual assault.

"Our goal is, how can we work the criminal justice system to provide some supports if women choose to report to RCMP," she said.

LeBlanc is calling for a victim bill of rights and better representation for victims when they are in court.

"The idea is to have a lawyer whose sole purpose would be to represent the victim, because it's a misconception that crown prosecutors are there to represent the victims, they're not," she said.

Having a lawyer who would just be there to represent the victim could prove to be very beneficial, said LeBlanc, and could also make victims feel they have their own voice in court.

The Beauséjour Family Crisis Resource Centre is in the process of getting a special dog that would be available to comfort people who come forward.

LeBlanc says courthouse dog, which will be the first of its kind in New Brunswick, will "bring some calm" to victims.

"It would be a facility dog that would help provide support to victims throughout their entire process, whether that be when they first come here for crisis intervention services right after the incident, to providing support while they're maybe getting a forensic exam, to the entire court process," she said.