Ghomeshi trial inspired conversations: author

Kevin Donovan, author of Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation, said the case that stirred up the country came down to the necessity of asking the right questions.

“I think [the prosecutors] should’ve asked the right questions, tried to make sure there wasn’t something [else] out there,” said Donovan, who will speak at St. Thomas University on Friday.

“Because in a court case, when you’re a witness for the prosecution, the prosecutor should bring forward anything that could be damaging to the case and put it out there right at the start, and that’s not what was done in this case.”

Donovan, a man accustomed to asking questions as a journalist for the Toronto Star, brings to life some of the larger questions of the Ghomeshi trial in his new book.

Donovan, along with Canadaland’s Jesse Brown, quietly pursued the story for months. The paranoia, rumours and whispers lead to Ghomeshi’s emotional Facebook post revealing his interest in “rough sex,” sending the scandal into a media frenzy.

Donovan said the book deals with the many allegations against Ghomeshi, how journalists get stories like it and Ghomeshi’s attempts to stop the story from coming out. Step by step, he explores the doubts, the women who came forward and the dramatic trial itself.

Donovan, who covered the case from day one, said it showed the “insurmountable difficulty in getting a [sexual assault] case ending up in a conviction,”

As a story that took the country’s headlines by storm, Donovan said Ghomeshi’s status as a media person had much to do with it.

“We are in a society that is very interested in personality stories,” he said. “Jian Ghomeshi was, at the time, arguably the most well-known media figure.

“He was in court every day with his family and with these accusers, and Marie Henein, who’s a very skilled defense counsel, but is a pretty interesting character. So, I think people have always been interested in trials.”
Donovan said one of the bigger issues brought out in the case was the fact that many women don’t feel as though they are listened to and are tired of “victim-blaming.”

“It touched a lot of nerves … there are people who believe that the women let everybody down, and I don’t think they did but people have said that, and I think that they’re totally different storylines. That’s why people are so fascinated by it.”

Donovan said the case gave people a different perspective on how the courts deal with sexual assault cases. He said that’s why it was also so important to tell the story of someone like York University student Mandi Gray whose case ended in the conviction of the accused.

“We made sure we told that story right after the Ghomeshi story so people understood that sometimes it can turn out a different way,” he said.

“But no, I do think people are more cynical and I think that people who have wanted to come forward with an allegation might look at [the Ghomeshi] trial and say, ‘What’s the point?’”

Donovan said he deals with the university campus issue specifically in his book, noting that recent conversations about sexual assault have prompted many colleges and universities in the country to create or revise their policies.

He said the most important thing is continuing to have those conversations and making sure these stories get told, something he’s trying to further with the release of Secret Life.

“There’s some stories we do where there’s a quick fix,” Donovan said. “The issue of sexual assault … this is not a quick fix. And it’s something that men and women need to be aware of, people at institutions need to be aware of.”

Donovan’s book talk, Q&A, and book signing at St. Thomas University will be in Kinsella Auditorium on Nov. 4 at 12.:30 p.m.

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