Trigger warning: Some parts of the article below describe instances of violence.
Jian Ghomeshi kept Lucy DeCoutere’s handwritten letter to him for 13 years. She was never his girlfriend. They never had sex. Given what we heard at trial last week, it's hard to imagine he was carrying a flame for her. So, why did he hold on to it for over a decade?
Ghomeshi kept files on women in case they would later accuse him of violence.
Here is some of what Jian Ghomeshi wrote in 2013 to a young woman, almost 20 years his junior, after she confronted him to say she believed a recent encounter between them was not consensual sex, but an instance of manipulation which resulted, she told me, in brutal, non-consensual violence:
"dear _______, ....it IS about sex. it WAS.....i have text messages from you saying you want this...the 'rough sex'...was something you were very interested in...you WANTED it to continue the next day and in subsequent messages and notes...reread our texts and re-examine our conversations if you wish... i wish for good karma into 2013. yours, jian"
After she provided me with Ghomeshi's email to her, I asked this woman, who requested to remain anonymous, what he was referring to. Earlier, she told me that at the end of their first date, Ghomeshi slammed her against a cement wall, choked her from behind and punched her repeatedly on the head. Did she consent to all of that in a text message beforehand, as Ghomeshi's email suggested?
No, she replied. Before they met, he introduced into their online flirtation talk of rough sex and submission, and told her she "needed to learn to agree to everything." She said she thought she could.
"I thought there was going to be hair pulling," she explained.
She told me that after choking her, he struck her "like I didn't even know men hit women."
The pain was so bad, she recalled, that she considered going to the hospital the next day. Instead, she accepted Ghomeshi's pleas to give him one more chance and meet him again in a public place for a platonic outing. They ended up watching TV at his house and cuddling. He told her he was from an abusive family. They maintained a friendly correspondence for a while, but what happened didn't sit well with her. She ultimately confronted him to say she felt he manipulated her. That's when he reminded her in an aggressive tone that he had kept records: "i have text messages...you WANTED it..."
Three other women told me similar stories, supported by evidence, of manipulation and entrapment. Ghomeshi would establish an electronic paper trail before the alleged violence took place and would make efforts to continue a correspondence afterwards. It followed a pattern.
Ghomeshi encouraged women he was pursuing to engage in rough sex talk over text, Facebook message, or email. They told me that if they balked, he would assure them over the phone (verbally, no records) that it was just fantasy, and none of it would physically happen to them. He told them it was healthy to "experiment" and he taunted and challenged them, saying maybe they were "not ready" for a guy like him. He asked for nude photos and videos, demanding explicit, pornographic poses. None of the women, who were much younger than him and often his fans, reported having prior experience with BDSM. At no point did they discuss limits or establish a "safe word." One woman described this process to me as "grooming."
They would then meet him, and what happened, happened.
If women were upset with him or elusive afterwards, Ghomeshi would seem to become nervous and made efforts to normalize things. One woman said he showed up at her home in tears. He sent friendly, flattering emails, and sometimes they would respond in kind. Once this record of amicable contact was established, he would stop responding to their messages. Some chased after him with solicitous emails.
If later they couldn't reconcile the incoherence of his behaviour and confronted him about it, he reminded his accusers that he had things on them: their texts, their nude pictures and videos, and the record of friendly contact after the fact, which he considered exculpatory.
He seemed to think he had evidence of consent. They were certain he did not. “There’s a big part of blackmail that went into it,” one woman told me.
The materials he had were threatening enough to keep most women from going to the police. That threat was realized last week in the cross-examination of Lucy DeCoutere. One of my initial sources wrote to me that what Lucy DeCoutere endured on the stand made her feel relieved that she spoke to the media and not to the police.
She is not alone.
There have been 23 separate allegations of assault or abuse by Jian Ghomeshi. The current trial involves three women.