The Toronto Star reports that four more women, including TV actress Lucy DeCoutere, have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against popular CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, bringing the total number of accusers to eight. That’s a lot of women, but Ghomeshi’s lengthy, pre-emptive self-defense on Facebook has already provided his explanation for why so many women are pointing fingers at him. It’s a conspiracy:
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 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.
For those inclined to believe Ghomeshi, then, these new accusers are not evidence of his guilt but of the far-reaching female cabal of post-breakup revenge. But there’s often a much simpler reason these kinds of accusations tend to come in waves, a combination of safety in numbers and a newfound sense of urgency that comes with finding out that other people have been victims. Many victims stay silent out of fear and a belief that speaking up won’t do any good anyway, as the assailant will simply deny the accusations. But when one woman comes forward, other victims not only feel safer about speaking up, but they often realize this man has a pattern of behavior that won’t be stopped unless more women tell their own stories and, in doing so, bring added credibility to the original accusations.
You see this pattern time and time again. Sharon Bialek, who accused then-presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment, only came forward after hearing that two other women had anonymously accused him. She wished to “to give a face and a voice to those other women,” as she explained in a press conference. Thirteen separate women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, and those who did on-the-record interviews cited the other women coming forward as the reason they felt the need to speak out. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner initially tried to paint himself as a victim of a “lynch-mob mentality” when 18 women came forward with accusations of sexual harassment, but eventually he had to admit instead that it was his own pattern of behavior that was the problem and not a conspiracy against him.
In a piece in Dame magazine, Kate Harding examined Ghomeshi’s claim that he’s the victim of an elaborate conspiracy:
I do not know for sure whether Ghomeshi is an abuser or the victim of an elaborate revenge campaign. But here’s what I do know for sure: He is asking us to believe that multiple former sex partners have chosen to accuse him of sexual violence—not the fun kind—in solidarity with one particularly bitter ex.
It’s not just that one woman is so angry about being rejected by him that she falsely accused him of criminal behavior. It’s that she rounded up a bunch of other women, who all agreed they would lie to reporters in an effort to smear an innocent man. He has done nothing wrong, nothing non-consensual, yet all of these women hated him enough to conspire to get him fired and publicly humiliate him. They “colluded” to establish a false “pattern of [nonconsensual, potentially life-threatening] behavior.” Because one of them was rilly, rilly mad.
As Harding notes, these kind of conspiracy theories rely on a pernicious stereotype of women as inherently deceitful, greedy, and downright sociopathic in their willingness to hurt men for the lulz. After the new wave of accusations came out, Ghomeshi returned to Facebook today with a more succinct statement. “I want to thank you for your support and assure you that I intend to meet these allegations directly,” he writes. “I don’t intend to discuss this matter any further with the media.” In comments, a supporter posted an image of a lynch mob.