A few ways to deal with coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi trial


As Jian Ghomeshi’s trial began Monday, February 1, 2016, the first of two sexual assault trials taking place in Toronto, we are beginning to see a rash of articles and think pieces about Ghomeshi’s career, about how the trial could be for the complainants, about sexual violence in Canada and rape culture, and about woman leading his defence team. The first complainant has courageously shared her testimony about the brutal violence she experienced by Ghomeshi. Her testimony is being shared in numerous articles and live blogs that are disclosing what is transpiring in the court room today.


These are the messages women and girls are told by society/media about how to avoid sexual violence. (image 1 of 3)

When it comes to sexual assault, the Canadian legal system doesn’t have a very good track record. The conviction rate for sexual assault is one of the very lowest of all the crimes in Canada. There are a lot of women out there who aren’t believed. There are a lot of disincentives to report.

Recent stats indicate that women’s reports of sexual violence to police or legal systems have plummeted in large part due to women giving up on the legal system’s ability to provide a measure of justice in sexual assault cases.

Let’s face it, the media isn’t much  better, doesn’t always do a good job reporting on violence against women in general and sexual violence specifically. A conference held recently in Toronto explored media reporting  this video explores how media perpetuates victim blaming troupes and this resource was written for journalists urging them to Use the Right Words when reporting on sexual violence

What to do as we are about to be inundated with media and social media reports of this trial?

“During the first go-around of the Ghomeshi media machine.  I felt unprepared. Like many others, I am bracing myself for what is sure at times to be a teeth-gritting, enraging, disappointing, frustrating, and heartbreaking process of awaiting updates, listening to analyses, and anticipating the trolls that are certain to emerge any time such a public case is discussed.” Lucia Lorenzi writes in rabble.ca

Here are a few options for self care and to deal with triggers:

  • Assess and make decisions about how much media you want to take in.
  • Set limits with people around you, friends, family, co-workers about talking about the trial.
  • Make decisions to stay from social media generally or specifically the comments section on news sites on social media sites.
  • Don’t assume everyone wants to discuss the trial. Give thought to what articles you share or if you share articles at all about the trial.
  • If you’re experiencing strong responses to media and/or social media reports you may be having a flashback or otherwise being triggered.
  • Remember, you can mute the #Ghomeshi tag if you need to. Take care of yourself.


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What is a flashback?
A flashback is when memories of a past trauma feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. That means it’s possible to feel like the experience of sexual violence is happening all over again. During a flashback it can be difficult to connect with reality. It may even feel like the perpetrator is physically present.

Flashbacks may seem random at first. They can be triggered by fairly ordinary experiences connected with the senses, like the smell of someone’s odor or a particular tone of voice. It’s a normal response to this kind of trauma, and there are steps you can take to help manage the stress of a flashback.

What helps during a flashback?
If you realize that you are in the middle of a flashback, consider the following tips:

  • Tell yourself that you are having a flashback. Remind yourself that the actual event is over and that you survived.
  • Breathe.
  • Take slow, deep breaths by placing your hand on your stomach and taking deep breaths. You should see your hand move out with the inhalations, and watch it fall in with the exhalations.
  • When we panic, our body begins to take short, shallow breaths, and the decrease in oxygen can make you feel more panicked. Deep breathing is important because it increases the oxygen in your system and helps you move out of anxious state faster.
  • Return to the present by using the five senses.
    • Sight: Look around you. Make a list of the items in the room; count the colors or pieces of furniture around you. What do you see?
    • Smell: Breathe in a comforting scent, or focus on the smells around you. What do you smell?
    • Hearing: Listen to the noises around you, or turn on music. What do you hear?
    • Taste: Eat or drink something you enjoy. Focus on the flavor. What do you taste?
    • Touch: Hold something cold, like a piece of ice, or hot, like a mug of tea. What does it feel like?
  • Recognize what would make you feel safer.

Wrap yourself in a blanket, or go into a room by yourself and close the door. Do whatever it takes for you to feel secure.


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How to prevent flashbacks?
You may be able to take steps to prevent future flashbacks by identifying warning signs and triggers:

  • Be aware of the warning signs.
    Flashbacks sometimes feel as though they come out of nowhere, but there are often early physical or emotional warning signs. These signs could include a change in mood, feeling pressure in your chest, or suddenly sweating. Becoming aware of the early signs of flashbacks may help you manage or prevent them.
  • Identify what experiences trigger your flashbacks.
    Flashbacks can be triggered by a sensory feeling, an emotional memory, a reminder of the event, or even an unrelated stressful experience. Identify the experiences that trigger your flashbacks. If possible, make a plan on how to avoid these triggers or how to cope if you encounter the trigger.

Where to get help?
There is a relief that comes with the end of a flashback, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-time occurrence. Flashbacks can worsen over time if you don’t address them.

Here is a list of resources where help is available:

In British Columbia


In Canada


Lucia Lorenzi says it best:
“It is impossible tell what the outcome of the Ghomeshi trials might be. It is harder still to predict if and how these trials will achieve what so many promised they would: to create a “watershed” moment regarding sexual violence in Canada. I don’t know if Ghomeshi will be convicted. Knowing the absolute brokenness of the Canadian justice system when it comes to sexual assault cases, I am deeply skeptical of such an outcome. I don’t know if our conversations about sexual violence will change: but, if they do, it will certainly take more than the trials of one former Canadian media darling. Sexual violence is not unusual or exceptional. It is happening every day in Canada. Most perpetrators will never see a day in court. Most victims will never receive justice. I don’t know how to fix a broken system.

What I do know is that as Ghomeshi’s trials take place, we do need ways to approach these difficult conversations: to be mindful of ourselves, of others, and to make sure that talking about violence doesn’t become another form of violence in and of itself.”

Transition Houses

by Amrit Atwal, Manager of Women’s Safety & Outreach Program

Transition Houses are an essential service in helping women and their children escape violence.  The web of supports that women receive when staying in a Transition House allow women to break free of isolation and create an empowering community.  Transition Houses and the services they offer allow women the opportunity to resist violence and engage in discussions of their shared experiences.

As research from Statistics Canada indicates, over 1100 women and children residents of British Columbia stayed in Transition Houses in 2011.  Further analysis shows that 39% of women accessing Transition Houses had stayed in one before and 84% of these women had stayed within the last year.  On average seven out of ten women approximately 71% indicated they were leaving an abusive relationship.

These statistics indicate what many women’s groups already know, that Transition Houses are an essential resource needed by women fleeing violence.

What is a Transition House?

Transition Houses provide both long term and short term housing for women and children fleeing abusive relationships or at the risk of experiencing violence.

Transition Houses break the isolation that many women experience when they are in abusive relationships.  Transition Houses build a safe community environment where women are encouraged to share their experiences and empower one another.

Why are Transition Houses needed?

As research and statistics indicate, one of the main reasons that women stay in abusive relationships is because of financial limitations.  Transition Houses take away the stress of financial burdens by providing free shelter, meals and other resources so women can concentrate on building their independence.  When women are no longer worried about how they will feed and shelter themselves and their children they are able to concentrate on how to move forward with their lives.

What types of services can I expect to receive if I stay in a Transition House?

Transition House workers support women fleeing abusive relationships by providing emotional support and empathy.  Workers in some Transition Houses are able to assist women with applying for and securing income assistance as well as helping women navigate through legal systems in terms of child custody and divorce.  Women who stay in Transition Houses in British Columbia where Battered Women’s Support Services operates can also apply for BC Housing which is the provincial agency that manages and administers a wide range of subsidized housing options. Women staying in Transition Houses in BC can apply through BC Housing to receive priority placement; however, this does not guarantee women will receive housing within the 30 days of her stay. Housing providers have waitlists for applicants and the role of priority placement is to give women fleeing violence priority in this waitlist.  Housing providers differ from province to province so it is best to contact the Transition Houses directly in order to access this information.  Transition House workers as well as other advocates such as social workers or members of community groups can advocate for women and write letters of support to housing providers in attempts to speed up the housing process which also differs provincially.

Other services that can be offered at Transition Houses include and are not limited to: safety planning for both women and children, crisis intervention and support, access to emergency clothing, advocacy and referral services, accompaniment to appointments, community education, information about violence in relationships and counselling.

Who is eligible to stay in a Transition House?

Any woman fleeing violence is eligible to stay in a Transition House; however, they do differ on intake procedures and it is best to contact them directly in terms of eligibility.  Women of all cultural backgrounds, ages, and economic status are welcome in a Transition House. Women fleeing same-sex relationships should call Transition Houses directly in order to correctly determine eligibility as Transitions Houses differ on criteria. Due to the high number of women needing shelter in Transition Houses, they are unable to hold space for women so it is best to call when you are ready and prepared to leave.  If a transition house is fully occupied, workers will try to locate space for women in the nearest alternative transition house.


How long can I stay at a Transition House?

Women leaving an abusive situation can stay up to 30 days. During this time staff is available to assist and support women in exploring and making decisions by offering information and support.

What options are available to me after 30 days are over?

There are second and third stage housing options for women that are safe and affordable.  These housing options can provide longer term housing options for women and can accommodate stays to anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.  Transition House workers can assist women in seeking out these housing options during their stay.

What does a Transition House look like?

Transition Houses are regular houses maintained to Provincial Housing standards.  You can typically expect for Transition Houses to have a communal shared living area and kitchen and some provide access to laundry.  Women may have to share a bedroom or may have their own room depending on if they have children with them.  Transition Houses are not listed in address directories due to safety issues and to maintain their privacy.

I am ready to leave what should I take with me to the Transition House?

Women are encouraged to bring all legal documents such as identification (licence, social insurance card, care cards), passports (including those of children), birth certificates, any bank statements, credit and debit cards, lease/rental agreements and house deeds, marriage license, separation/divorce papers, immigration papers and peace bonds/restraining orders if applicable. Women can also bring clothes and other necessities for themselves and their children; however, not too much due to the limitation of space in Transition Houses.

If you and/or you know of any woman experiencing violence in her life, please refer to the following resource of our list of Transition Houses in Canada:


Helpful Links:




Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence in 2012. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.