As a multi-service feminist organization that supports victims and survivors of domestic violence, we conscientiously observe the world and conversations around us, and in particular the media and public narrative when it comes to issues pertaining to our services. Statistically, on the whole, progress is – as with many issues in our society – slowly being achieved in this sector. But unfortunately, there are instances like this where we see a clear step backward.
You may have Googled this trial, and seen top hits like “Funniest Witness Moments”. You may have been scrolling through Instagram and seen the “blooper” reels or meme compilations on YouTube. There has literally been laughter in the courtroom.
This – like any trial – should not be a joke.
The fact that they are celebrities is irrelevant. They are people. Every single one of them in that courtroom. And people in that situation are being subjected to scrutiny, ridicule, judgement and lack of analysis not only from the officials responsible in a court of law, but by every spectator, and – in this case – the public at large.
But irrespective of all of that, so much of the conversation is being dominated by making light of the situation, and in so doing – conscious or otherwise – making light of the subject matter.
Alicia Whyte – Women’s Habitat Shelter Manager – recently made a statement on CTV News on this topic:
“Now we’re looking at a situation where we are not actually even looking at the experience of the two individuals, we are now judging the two people who are involved.” says Whyte. “It really causes for more confusion and more misunderstanding and more ignorance on the topic of domestic violence”.
You can see the story on CTV News at 6 for Friday, May 6th.
Taking a step to take action against someone in an abusive situation takes incredible bravery and strength. Creating a culture where that action is met with ridicule and humiliation only creates more perceived barriers for people wanting and needing to come forward in the future. It puts the victims in an even more fearful position, when the potential backlash is demonstrated in such a high-profile situation such as this.
Humour in this case is a toxicity to public perception, and only exacerbates society’s inherent inclination to ignore uncomfortable issues such as domestic and intimate partner abuse in any form.
Regardless of where personal opinion lies, it needs to be about respect and a concerted effort to approach these happenings with more of an analytical and empathetic lens.