Talking about a taboo subject matter like sexual assault is difficult – The Ghomeshi Effect takes the stories of sexual assault victims centre stage to begin a conversation.
The play opened Thursday at The Gladstone Theatre to a sold-out crowd from all walks of life. Using verbatim dance-theatre the script was formed from a series of 40 interviews done with victims of sexual assault.
For Jessica Ruano, director and creator, this moment was a long time coming.
Ruano felt passionate about putting on this play because of her own experience of sexual violence and because of the issues her friends have had when they bring their case to the legal system.
“The way the legal system handles sexual assault cases has been proven to be problematic and divisive,” Ruano said.
According to Statistics Canada, 90 per cent of sexual assault cases are not reported to the police. The play highlights why many don’t bring their case forward and how those who do endure a variety of struggles.
“I didn’t pursue charges so I could survive,” one character said referring to why they kept their assault out of the legal system.
Those who did bring their cases forward told of the struggles they endured to have their side believed amongst questions from the public and the legal system that had nothing to do with their story.
“There’s a problem with the textbook” another character said referring to the justice system.
For audience members like Patricia Hubert, the play echoed their own experiences.
“I don’t think I’ve spoke to anyone who’s had a positive experience with the police,” she said.
Ruano hopes the The Ghomeshi Effect encourages conversation around the commonly held assumptions about sexual violence and the institutions that handle the cases.
The play is just one aspect of the conversation that is beginning around sexual violence.
Throughout the 10 days the production is playing, The Ghomeshi Effect has partnered with non-violence community organizations to host panel discussions and workshops focused on education and making a difference in the legal system.
Instead of reacting out of anger or sadness to sexual violence cases and how they’re handled, Ruano hopes The Ghomeshi Effect allows people to think critically before forming a rash response.
“Our play is a response rather than a reaction,” she said.
Looking forward, the production examines ways the justice system could change to better represent victims of sexual assault, with the ultimate goal of prevention.
The Ghomeshi Effect runs until Jan. 28 at The Gladstone Theatre and plans to tour.