Opinions and Current Issues Blog

Saba Ahmad is a Litigator working on environmental, administrative and commercial matters in Toronto. Learn more at www.sabaahmad.com

The Right to Gripe: Sarah Thomson and #buttgate



Of course the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.  But for Ford’s newsworthiness and Friday being a slow news day, people would not normally have paid this much attention to routine allegations of sexual harassment.

And that’s the purpose of this blog entry – to emphasize how it’s all so “everyday”.  

Many commentators suggest Sarah Thomson should have to file a formal police complaint to earn the “right” to be taken seriously.

That offends me.  

We’re supposed to disbelieve anyone alleging sexual harassment if they aren’t willing to “go to the wall” with the allegations?  Why? Does being the victim of harassment carry with it the responsibility to seek redress? 

If it does, many, many victims are not meeting this standard.  

The obstacles to reporting are many.  Chief among them is lack of time and motivation.  Most of us do not seek retribution or even reconciliation with those who have wronged us.  We prefer to move on and look forward.  And given how often “routine” sexual harassment happens, frequent contact with authorities would be disruptive if victims always reported.

Besides, in the absence of a prosecutable offence, what’s the point of reporting?  Take groping by a stranger:  if you lack proof, are fuzzy on details and you weren’t hurt (merely offended/outraged) then why must the victim re-live the experience for a police officer who can’t do anything anyway? 

We live in a society where most victims move on and try to heal without drawing on judicial and law enforcement resources.  Part of that healing might include griping.  

Griping on Facebook is very common – for complaining about politicians, cell phone providers, and guitars broken by United Airlines.  

Sarah Thomson vented and she did not strive to insulate Rob Ford from media scrutiny.

That does not amount to making mischief. And the possibility of mischief does not make Sarah Thomson a liar.

I wasn’t there.  I don’t know exactly what happened.  I do know Sarah Thomson’s story is familiar.  There’s a lack of proof and the level of harm is minimal.  In those circumstances, most victims would not invest a good deal of time and energy to seek redress.

And in the absence of evidence disproving Sarah Thomson’s allegations, a libel suit would come to nothing.  

In short, this he-said/she-said story is ill-suited for the courts.  And that’s no reason to attempt to silence either Thomson’s allegations of sexual harassment, or Ford’s allegations of libel.


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This entry was posted on March 12, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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