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Sarah Thomson

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Doug Ford: Stalker or love sick pitt bull?

Yesterday an affidavit came out that was sworn by a former PC candidate – Pina Martino. It was sent to the PC party legal team back in 2016, three days before her nomination race in Etobicoke Centre. In it she named dozens of people who were on the riding member list but admitted that they had never paid for their membership. She worried that Doug Ford had signed up and paid their membership fee for them. A secret tape recording of Mr. Ford telling people they didn’t have to pay was released by the Liberals this week and would seem to verify that indeed Mr. Ford likely  paid for their memberships. This  goes against the PC party bylaws. Martino was concerned because the rules around nominations were being flagrantly ignored, signing up members and paying their dues results in lack of commitment and support for the candidate. It’s a stupid thing to do and undermines the strength of the party. 

 In an email to the party Martino went on to allege  that Doug Ford had followed her not once but twice in an attempt to intimidate her from running for the nomination.

Let’s imagine this woman is your sister, mother, wife, or daughter, who Doug Ford has followed in his big black SUV in an attempt to intimate/scare her from running for the party she’s supported for over a decade. What advice would you give her? Most people would say that Ford’s behaviour crossed the line. That following a women in order to intimidate her is called stalking

Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment.

Today there are many PC party members wondering if Doug Ford rigged his own leadership race. Many more are disgusted that Ford was caught cheating the very system he has pledged to clean up. Yesterday’s release of a voice recording of Ford telling people they “don’t have to pay a thing” while referring to their membership forms demonstrates that he was willing to break the rules in the nomination process and rig the vote to favour his chosen candidate. His claims that the issue was dealt with by the PC party – the same party he admitted was filled with vote rigging and corruption, doesn’t hold much credibility.

But it is Doug Ford’s total disregard for the legitimacy of the nomination process that should send warning bells off witin every sane voter across Ontario.

Once a corrupt politician always a corrupt politician.

Personally I wonder why Mr. Ford risked so much to set Kinga Surma up as the new candidate for Etobicoke Centre. It would seem that he has taken quite a fancy to this young woman whose only experience was as campaign organizer for me in the 2010 mayoral race, and then assistant to George Smitherman in his race to stop Rob Ford. She worked for Liberal Peter Milczyn when he sat as councillor for Etobicoke, but other than that she has little to no political experience.

I know Surma well from her time working on my campaign, and will say that she is very bright, attractive and ambitious. I don’t doubt that she makes a good candidate.  But compared to Pina Martino, she lacked the history of dedication to the local community. Martino has participated on the Etobicoke-Centre riding association since 2006 and she was the candidate for the riding in the 2014 election. She had name recognition and a long-term commitment to the party.

But Doug Ford opted for a young woman with little political experience over a former candidate with name recognition and a history in the riding. This is extremely questionable, especially when combined with news that Mr. Ford was willing to risk his personal reputation and break all the rules just to get Ms. Surma the seat.

As a journalist I don’t understand why he would risk so much for one candidate?  I know that there is more to this than meets the eye.

 

Omissions from investigation into Steve Paikin

This ordeal I have had so far with Steve Paikin is the perfect example of what happens to women who speak out on powerful media personalities. I was warned by many PR experts not to take part in an investigation that was controlled and paid for by TVO as the scope of the investigation could change and eliminate evidence that could damage Mr. Paikin.

Despite their warnings I was surprised to see that the investigator did not even mention my reason for stepping forward with my allegations. In giving my statement I explained to her that a friend of mine had learned that Mr. Paikin was involved with his wife – he felt Paikin was destroying their marriage. The wife had also appeared on the Agenda.  I realized that my inaction 8 years ago had enabled Paikin; and although I had told a lot of people about his behaviour, it had done nothing to stop him. I had an ethical duty to step forward. The husband was willing to give his testimony to the investigator, but required a confidentiality agreement. The investigator tried to get TVO and Mr. Paikin to agree to it, but they refused and limited the scope of the entire investigation.

My case also had some pretty concrete evidence the biggest being an email I received from my assistant after we had lunch with Paikin.  

The email relays very clearly the events that happened, as well it pointed out that I believed exposing him would hurt me. Yet the investigator chose to assert that for some reason I coerced my assistant into writing an email that could have hurt me politically.  And she refused to give it much weight in her overall calculation. We found the email after weeks of searching through all my files – from boxes in my basement to storage drives and old cds. Many of my email files were erased over the years, but I had saved some onto a number of storage drives. On one of the drives I found the email my assistant had sent to me back in 2010,  and my lawyer had it authenticated by an outside validation company to submit as part of our evidence. 

The FacebookTranscript with EA  my EA wrote earlier this year also back up his initial email and the fact that Mr. Paikin came on to me in response to my request to get on his show..  

The questions I messaged to my EA were the same questions any investigative journalist would ask when piecing together an article. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t inaccurately added anything to my recollection.

Despite checking with the witness, I did make one mistake in the article I wrote about my #MeToo story. I had forgotten that when I ran for the liberals in 2011 my campaign manager had secured me a spot on the show as the liberal candidate.  I inaccurately wrote that I was never given access to the show after my lunch with Paikin.   At the time I wrote the article, all I remembered were the years after 2011 when I hadn’t been able to access the show. I began advocating for transit expansion in 2012 as head of the Transit Alliance.  We ran a huge campaign around dedicated transit funding. Our events saw hundreds of people attend, most of the press came out, and I was on radio programs and other television shows as the go-to transit advocate in Toronto. But when I tried to get on the Agenda, Paikin’s response was “take me up on my previous offer.” Not getting access to the show year after year to talk about transit expansion became much bigger in my mind than one brief appearance in 2011 to talk about the liberal election platform.

Going into the investigation I thought that I was luckier than many women because I actually had a witness – my assistant – who had heard everything Paikin had said to me. He had served as my aid during the formal campaign period, but also during the informal wind down stage of the campaign. His role was to attend events, meetings and canvass beside me. It was not a position for a meek individual.  He had to be strong enough to face very opinionated people, and he could hold his own quite well in policy discussions. He prided himself in being a strong feminist. This is why his decision to back-peddle on his testimony and on what he had written quite emphatically in 2010 as well as in his facebook messages to me this year was so devastating.  I was shocked. I tried to figure out why he would do this to me. At one point I felt sorry for him. I wondered what could have happened to make him give up his feminism. I thought that perhaps he was intimidated by Paikin’s inflamed blog, and that he just needed encouragement. But as more time passed I began to wonder what had made this man I knew so well, completely compromise his ethics in such a way.

I went over and over the timeline during that day in 2010. We returned to the office after the lunch with Paikin and spoke about the come-on with a woman who was working for me at the time. We spoke about the fact that I couldn’t come out publicly on Paikin because it would ruin my chances of getting elected.  But I don’t remember much more about the afternoon, I would have had to leave around 2:30 to pick my kids up from school. We had started the day hoping to get me on Paikin’s show, and I might have suggested my assistant email me if they came up with an alternative way to get me on – his email seems to be addressing that issue.

That TVO and Mr. Paikin took my complaint to the public after I specifically indicated I wanted it to be kept private, is a tactic that has proven effective for protecting powerful men, but one that most corporations would not condone. Sexual impropriety investigations must be kept private to protect witnesses and encourage others to come forward. Instead, TVO allowed Mr. Paikin to come out loud and threatening over social media.  I wasn’t protected but shamed. The shaming was so extreme that it made conditions unsafe for other witnesses to step forward. TVO, is an agency of the Ontario government and their handling of my private complaint, was disgraceful. CEO, Lisa De Wilde did not follow protocol, and employees might have perceived that stepping forward on Mr Paikin would lead to their own public shaming. Their complete disregard for protocol should be addressed by the Minister of Education, who is responsible for TVO.  

During the investigation we had a witness who was, at one time, an intern at TVO, she had heard rumours and was told by another employee that Mr. Paikin did this all the time. The employee refused to come forward, which isn’t surprising given the public shaming TVO allowed Paikin to put me through.  

Another witness who worked at TVO for 3 years wrote an email to me:
“Good on you girl for exposing Paikin. He has previous for that type of behaviour and it’s been well known at TVO for years.
I wrote: “ Thanks – the hate is pretty rough. Did you work at TVO?
Yes I did, for three years. Can’t really go into it in depth. It’s not worth my life being disrupted.”

None of the evidence above was entered into the investigators report – it’s almost as if she didn’t want the public knowing about the witnesses who were afraid of being publicly shamed.   There are hundreds of articles written about how sexual predators  bully people into silence.  They are often charismatic, they surround themselves with supporters. And they often groom their families, friends and co-workers into believing in their image.   “Even people who know them well cannot conceive that they are capable of exploiting others sexually. Such predators are masters of deceit,” states Psychology Today.

Today as I reflect back over the past several months, I know that  eventually the truth will come out, more women will step forward with their own experiences. The #MeToo movement has proven that there is strength in numbers. 

I remember how vicious the press were over my claims that Mayor Ford was on cocaine, and the ridicule I received from the likes of Christie Blatchford for even suggesting the Mayor had substance abuse problems. I remember how Newstalk 1010 gave entire shows over to discrediting me. I remember how they all went silent when the truth came out. He needed help, and their lack of impartiality may have enabled him, and possibly delayed that help.

Once again the clickbait media have circled around Mr. Paikin declaring him the saintliest man there ever was on television. Once again they ignore the signs, they avoid the hard investigative work, and they attack the messenger. When the truth comes out,  I know they’ll slink away again hoping nobody remembers how they victim shamed and blamed me for stepping forward. I will remember. I hope you do too.

Mr Paiken: You allege that I defamed you. I did nothing of the sort. I specifically told you I wanted this out of the public eye, and instead you blew it up into a spectacle. You know Steve, you could have just chosen to admit you made a mistake and listened.  You could have decided to do better going forward for the sake of every woman you know. That response would be far classier than making yourself into a mid life power trip cliché.

Port St. Charles Barbados

I travel quite often to Barbados as I’m building an arts and cultural centre there.  I’m planning on moving with my family to the island in the fall. So I know the island quite well, and one of my favourite areas on the island is the north west coast. The beaches are less crowded than the south coast; the hotels and houses are luxuriant, and restaurants in Speighstown and Holetown are fantastic.

I believe the island of Barbados is one of the best in the Caribbean. It is below the hurricane belt, and after the devastating hurricanes in 2017, this is a very important issue – especially for those looking to buy a retirement property! But the island also has a long British history, the people are gentle, well educated – but in a relaxed way. The island has a high education standard, has a public library system, and is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean.

One of my favourite places to stay is at Port St. Charles – a collection of luxury condos on the north end of Speighstown. With a beautiful white sand beach that connects all the way into Speightstown, a marina (with the largest boats I have ever seen), two pools and a yacht club offering some of the islands best dining the resort feels like a second home. It is as safe place – and while their are security guards that walk the grounds I’m not sure if they are truly needed. I like to sleep with my windows open and listen to the whistling frogs at night. And I’ve never felt any worry over doing it.  Most of the staff have worked there for years, and they all genuinely care about the place.

I’ve stayed in a number of different suites on the property, but find that the units facing west are best as they catch the afternoon sun on the deck, making it quick to dry out wet bathing suits.

I should declare that I’m a bit biased as I have a friend who owns one of the better units. It is  close to the yacht club – north end of the property. It has a private dipping pool and a great outdoor dining area. Three large bedrooms, two of them have views of the marina and a full kitchen and laundry. I can imagine myself there now having breakfast on the deck, coffee in hand and watching a sea turtle poke it’s head out of the water. 

If you don’t feel like cooking dinner in the condo, the Yacht club is a two minute walk, and a great place to relax in the afternoon. There is a pool next to the cocktail bar and a deck with ladder if you prefer swimming in the ocean. Sir Richard Branson was there one afternoon (alas I missed meeting him), but you never know who you’ll meet at the cocktail bar! 

Or if you feel like listening to live calypso and watching the sun set, drop into the Beach Shack in Speightstown it is just a 10 minute walk (along the beach).

In the morning between 10:30 and 11:00am the turtles swim up the coast and go into the channel that flows into the Marina. If walk up to the north end of the beach, take goggles and you can swim with them.

I’d also recommend heading over to meet the Warren family at St. Nicholas Abbey – Simon Warren is a gracious host who often leads the tours.  I met Simon and his family at Port St Charles Yacht club during a Sunday brunch (not to be missed) and had a nice chat with Simon’s mother Anna, she is a beautiful and interesting woman. I left thinking she was someone I’d like to know better.   The Warrens did a beautiful restoration of the old rum plantation. The guided tour of the Great House is definitely worth doing, and if you can get there when the distillery and sugar mill are running do take that tour as well. You can spend 2-3 hours there and have lunch at their outdoor cafe – the view of the jungle is gorgeous. And don’t forget to take your camera – from the red footed tortoise, to their Guinea fowl there is something to see around every corner!

If you are looking to take in Barbados, the north west coast is the place to go, and Port St. Charles will not disappoint!

Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.

 

The #MeToo campaign is a revolt not a witch hunt

The #MeToo campaign was designed to point out the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment, but here in Canada reaction to the campaign is widespread disapproval.  Instead of embracing and supporting women who speak out about sexual harassment, many Canadians choose to scorn, shame and defame them.

Research into sexual assault has found that, on average, only 4% of allegations are proven false, while 40% of those accused are proven to be guilty.  People who don’t know this research insist that innocent men will be destroyed by false accusations and claim the #MeToo movement is just a “witch hunt.” They ignore the facts. And these facts make it easy to identify a sexual predator:

  • Sexual predators push their victims into the court of public opinion to try to discredit them. They don’t care about the harm or shame they cause their victim
  • Sexual predators deny all accusations, unequivocally and strongly. They take to social media to broadcast their denial and shame their victim.
  • Sexual predators threaten defamation. This is designed to scare other victims from stepping forward, and push witnesses into hiding.
  • Women who come out publicly always get scorned and shamed – nobody wants that kind of attention, but sexual predators try to insist that their victims step forward to face the scorning.

Sexual predators need to scare both victims and witnesses from stepping forward, and threats of lawsuits are a common tactic they use to push witnesses into hiding.  Too few people know enough about the law to realize that they can’t be sued for giving private testimony.

Innocent men don’t push their case out to the court of public opinion, or allow women to be vilified when they come forward. Most large corporations have a sexual harassment policy that requires complete confidentiality through an investigation. This confidentiality is key to a fair investigation as it protects the woman who make the allegations, and the witnesses who might come forward.  It also conveys the message to all employees that they are free to report sexual harassment without being punished. Any company that doesn’t follow these guidelines has extremely questionable HR practices.

An actual investigation into sexual harassment needs to uncover if the person accused of harassment exhibited improper and offensive conduct, including objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat.  Sexual predators often ignore the fact that by taking their fight to the court of public opinion they are publicly trying to shame the women involved. They will usually demean her, and try to intimidate her, without even realizing that their actions display an attempt to “belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment.”  

Innocent men allow the investigation to be carried out without prejudice. Guilty men can be judged by the way they treat their accuser.  If they go public when she has asked for confidentiality, if they threaten defamation, if they try to smear her reputation, their actions indicate they are not innocent. A decent man doesn’t drag a woman out to be stoned in the court of public opinion, only a desperate man does that. 

The #MeToo campaign is not a witch hunt, it’s a revolt by women who have been silent for decades.

Karma

The older I grow, the more I’ve come to believe that good actions attract good energy and bad actions attract negative energy.  Webster’s describes Karma as a Hindu and Buddhist belief in the “force generated by a person’s actions to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.” I’ve completely distorted this religious belief to fit what I’ve noticed so far in my life. For me the good or bad actions that people do seem to have an impact on their destiny.  Doing good things, being ethical, brings positive energy and positive outcomes. Doing bad things -lying, stealing, cheating – brings negative energy and bad repercussions.  People who lie, cheat or steal always seem to have bad things happen to them and often complain that life is never fair to them.

I remember when I was in my early twenties an aggressive woman neighbour was fighting my father over their backyard property boundary. My father was elderly, he pulled an oxygen tank around with him, and could barely walk from his chair in the living room to the front door. He had trouble getting from the car into the courtroom. The neighbour swore to tell the truth on the witness stand, and then went on to tell a whopper of a lie about my father yelling at her, banging on her door at all times of day, and scaring her. Anyone who had watched my father’s slow walk into the courtroom knew there was no way this frail old man could make it all the way around the block to her front door, let alone yell at her once he got there.  He barely had enough breath to answer questions on the witness stand.  But she went on and on about how she was afraid to go out of her house. I remember wondering if she’d be struck by lightning for telling such a lie while under oath. She died of a brain tumour 6 months later.

Ever since then I’ve noticed that people who knowingly lie and distort the truth always seem to be physically impacted by the lie, as if their act of lying attracts negative energy that swirls around inside them. It might manifest as a brain tumour, or as a horrible circumstance that happens to them or someone they love.

In 2013 I came out on Mayor Ford’s behaviour and drug induced state at a public event.  He and his brother went on the radio the following day and called me a liar, publicly shaming me and distorting the truth. I remember listening to Mayor Ford deny everything that had happened and claim that he never touched drugs. I remember thinking how this huge lie he was telling would eat away at him, and I wondered how long it would take. Within a year he developed the tumour in his stomach that eventually killed him. I’m sure it was not this one lie that caused his cancer but rather think that lies and deceits over time tend to compound inside a person.

My son was telling me today about Stephen Hawking’s idea that there are other dimensions that we can’t see or even begin to comprehend, and I wonder if karma might be explained in this way? I’ve seen its impact too many times to count and I sometimes wonder if it might be reversed? If a liar admits to the truth, would they be releasing the lie and stopping negative energy from building up inside them?

Karma is a very real part of how I understand the world. I’ve always believed that doing good attracts good energy, so I try in my own way to do things that will make the world better.  When I look at my husband sleeping in the bed beside me and think of our two boys, I know I must always try to do the right thing.  I can’t turn a blind eye and walk away from something when I know that my actions can make the world a little better for someone else.  Life has taught me to hang onto the truth, to value it, and never compromise it, because the world has a very harsh way of dealing with liars.

Tactics used to protect guilty men

In the case of the two women who have accused Patrick Brown of sexual misconduct, it will be interesting to see if his defence team follows the age-old tactics that are used to defend men accused of sexual assault. The public can be easily fooled by a slick PR strategy that capitalizes on the fact that nobody wants to believe their “good” guy has a bad side. From his latest behaviour it’s obvious that Patrick Brown now has a defence team in place whose first order of business was to repair the damage Brown did by showing weakness when he resigned.  They would likely have advised him that showing strength scares witnesses away and showing weakness attracts witnesses to pounce on him. There are four key tactics used to defend men who are charged with sexual misconduct.  

  1. Absolute denial combined with hints of defamation charges:  The accused is usually advised to come out loud and strong, denying everything and suggesting legal action. This is designed to gain public support – the public naturally follow someone who shows strength – but it is also designed to scare witnesses from testifying. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of public opinion or get into a costly defamation trial. If the perpetrator can get public opinion on his side, and convince people he’s going to sue for defamation, witnesses will crawl into hiding. Patrick Brown has now come out strongly denying everything and suggesting he’ll sue CTV for defamation. Yet CTV claims they have not been notified by anyone from Brown’s team. Which indicates he is simply bluffing to scare witnesses into hiding. If he doesn’t sue them, it’s a strong indication that there may be some truth to the allegations.                                                                                                                                                 The first woman who alleged Patrick Brown assaulted her at a party said that she attended it with a friend, but now the “friend” doesn’t remember being there with her.  I’m told this happens a lot when public shaming occurs. Witnesses feign memory loss and make themselves out to be unreliable because they don’t want to face public shaming or stand up beside a victim who is being shamed. They would rather abandon her than tell the truth. We assume people will defend the truth, they will do the right thing because a just society needs people to stand up for the truth. The sad fact is few witnesses do, unless forced by the courts in a defamation trial, or criminal investigation.                                                                                                                                                Personally, I believe that the women who accused Patrick Brown are victims of his misconduct and victims of the court of public opinion (which can be even worse).  I find it highly unlikely that any woman would come out had she known in advance that her friend wouldn’t stand up beside her. That a very weak man calling himself her “friend” has backed out of defending the truth is the real shame.  That kind of immorality eats away at a person, I hope she takes comfort in the fact that his shame will haunt him for the rest of his life.
  1. Blame the victim: This includes attacking her entire history and showing her as promiscuous. I have no doubt the next stage of Brown’s strategy will be to get social media focused on the background of both his accusers.  They may try to “slut” shame them or create the idea that these victims somehow set Patrick Brown up as a political stunt. This serves two purposes. It  will stir up hate on social media and it will protect him from other witnesses who may be thinking of coming forward. Now is the time women, who may have similar experiences with him need to stand up for the truth. We must come together to push social change forward, and build a just society for our children.
  2. Elicit sympathy for the man accused:  This is the next stage that Patrick Brown will need to work at. Sympathy isn’t as easy to achieve for a powerful man as it is for a younger man. Remember the case of Brock Turner who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster? His legal team tried to focus on his accomplishments and the bright future he had ahead of him – they suggested the victim’s accusations would hurt Turner’s future. The same is being said about Patrick Brown. The victims are now being accused of ruining his future in politics, no thought or comment is given to their futures, and his media supporters would have us all ignore that Brown may have tried to force himself on two intoxicated women.
  3. Promote Doubt: By promoting enough doubt, the perpetrator aims to steer the focus off of the facts and onto the unreliability of the women involved. Evidence will be distorted, past events and statements taken out of context, their friends questioned, and witnesses scared into hiding – anything that will discredit the woman is fair game. Distorting evidence equalizes the victim and the perpetrator. The Toronto Sun has now come out with a story claiming Patrick Brown is innocent simply because one of the victims got the timing of the event wrong – the timing doesn’t change that he might have forced himself on her while she was intoxicated, or that another woman stated that she too had a similar experience. Both accounts suggest a predatory pattern. That he had an intoxicated woman employee alone in his bedroom is the issue everyone should be questioning. What employer would be fool enough to do that?

Memory of an event is usually triggered by the emotion a woman feels when facing sexual assault or misconduct. They might feel angry, or powerless, and it is that memory that stays with you no matter how much you try to forget it. Women who have had such experiences usually tell and warn their friends about it. The timing might blur and details surrounding the event might fade, but the actual event itself and those feelings of anger, frustration, and helplessness don’t fade away. Every time you hear about another woman experiencing sexual assault or misconduct you are reminded of your own experience.  To jump to the conclusion that the women were lying simply because one got her timing off, or because one of them was friends with a reporter doesn’t explain why Patrick Brown took an intoxicated female employee to his bedroom. These other issues are designed to promote doubt.

The media seems to be glossing over an extremely important issue that is highly questionable, and something the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are trying to address.  That Patrick Brown, or someone on his defence team, may have started a social media campaign designed to shame his two accusers.  This attack campaign released the names of the two women over social media. When it comes to sexual assault or misconduct the standard practice is to protect women who report the incident from backlash until an investigation has concluded. Most employers know this and take extra effort to protect their identity and create a safe work environment for all women. Why hasn’t the Ontario PC party called for an investigation into this? Why hasn’t Patrick Brown called in an outside investigator?

By identifying the women by name over social media, has Patrick Brown’s team crossed the line from civil to barbaric?

In a sexual misconduct or assault case, the perpetrator will often come up with a parallel story to explain why they were with the victim, and/or to fool the public into thinking them innocent. For example, Patrick Brown originally denied categorically that any of the events the two women spoke of had happened. But his former girlfriend has come out saying she watched him go to his bedroom with the woman employee, and then come down later to immediately drive her home. What girlfriend doesn’t think something is wrong when her boyfriend rushes out of the bedroom with a drunk woman and immediately drives her home?

I expect Patrick Brown’s strategy will involve all of the tactics above. The sad fact is that even if the women’s allegations are proven true, the court of public opinion has already shamed them, and once the masses take a position they don’t want to be told they were wrong.  Most people won’t remember that these women were forced to endure pubic shaming and social media attacks just because they came out with the truth. The public still sees strong women who stand up to powerful men as suspect, as women who “rock the boat for attention” –  instead of women who are trying to stop powerful men from abusing their positions.  

Social change is coming, but it will be a long time before the public understands the personal cost women endure by speaking up to protect others.

Media personality uses his position to gain sex

The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are empowering women to step forward to try to stop sexual misconduct, and to shape a better world for our children. To do this it requires that guilty men fall.  The question that many are asking is do these men need to fall so harshly? The court of public opinion can ruin careers, it is unforgiving and the media stokes the flames with every dirty little secret uncovered. Is this public shaming a necessary part of the change our society is going through?

I hope we will get to a day when it isn’t needed, but think, as the beginning of social change sets in, the public shaming is a necessary part of the social change. And I say this as someone who has experienced public shaming. 

By taking on the Mayor of Toronto in 2013, and being the first to talk about his drug use and sexual misconduct, I became a target for Ford nation. And I admit that I wasn’t prepared to go up against a very savvy and strategic campaign (led by Rob’s brother Doug Ford) to bury the truth. From the moment the news hit social media, Doug Ford was on the phone with all the media personalities in Toronto, calling in favours and working to gain their support for his brother. His goal was to get them to discredit me, to turn the public against me and make the Mayor out to be the victim.  A friend of mine was, at the time, hosting a talk show on Newstalk 1010 and he warned me that Doug Ford was calling all the key commentators and trying to get them to discredit me. Doug was able to manipulate many of them. Even those who knew me to be a legitimate community advocate turned against me.  They spent a week questioning my background, my authenticity, and making Mayor Ford out to be the victim. Doug Ford succeeded at manipulating the media to work on his agenda, and for a time they were so busy attacking me, they ignored the legitimate stories swirling around the Mayor. Ford’s strategy to deceive the public through the media worked – until it didn’t.

But the public shaming was a terrible experience and I understand now why so few came to defend me. I am thankful to the men who did – Mayor John Tory and Greg Sorbara – were two men who stood up in a sea of accusations to suggest that I wasn’t one to exaggerate. But for a week or two I couldn’t get on the subway or walk through a grocery store without a Ford fanatic following behind me screaming that I was a lying bitch.  So I know very well what the court of public opinion can do to someone. And I also know that eventually the truth comes out – as it did on Mayor Ford.

Today women are finally uniting and using their voices to shine a spotlight on the sexual abuse and misconduct of some very powerful public figures. The guilty need to fall. And I for one believe that the truth will protect those who are wrongfully accused, as it did me. I went through hell, but I am stronger for it. The time has come for men who abuse their power to pay for their actions.  

There is still one man whose actions haunt me. In 2010 when I was running for Mayor of Toronto, I was on a political talk show with the other top four candidates.  The show was widely watched and it helped my numbers in the polls, so the next time I saw the host I asked if I might get on his show again. Always kind and friendly, he suggested we meet over lunch to discuss.  My assistant and I met him at Grano’s on Yonge Street, and the three of us ordered our lunch. Not five minutes into the lunch the host asked me if I would sleep with him. My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table. I politely told the host that I loved my husband and would never do that. I then excused myself, went to the washroom and called my campaign manager. My manager was at first angry that I was alone with a talk show host, but when I explained that my assistant was actually sitting there with us and had heard the entire thing, his anger turned to shock. He was great at calming me down and  joked that if I didn’t want to “take one for the team” then I should excuse myself and leave.  I followed his instruction, and later asked my EA what he and the host had talked about while I was in the washroom. He told me he questioned the talk show host to see if asking directly for sex actually worked for him. The host said that it worked 50 percent of the time. I hope he was just bragging, but I’ve always wondered if the women who are frequent guests on his show have slept with him.

Back in 2010 this meant that some of the male candidates had extra exposure on his show that I couldn’t get. They didn’t have to sleep with him to get on his show.  It was frustrating but in a busy campaign we didn’t have time to address it.  When I talk with younger women, they are shocked at the way the world was back then.  I realize that women of my generation were programmed to accept how it was. We had to joke about it because getting mad every other day wasn’t healthy. I remember a woman saying to me once when I complained about an editor who slept with interns that “boys will be boys.”  It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned that some boys turn into caring and compassionate men concerned about building a fair and just society. 

In 2010 the host  made it harder for me to compete with the men I was up against, because they were invited to appear on his show while I wasn’t. He didn’t give a damn about how he impacted my future.   In the years since he’s approached me several times, usually at political functions, to suggest we “sleep together” and he always laughs about it.  I wonder if he does this so that if he is ever held to account he can claim that he was only joking? I also wonder how he would explain why he has never had me on his show, in a climate where talk show hosts complain that they can’t get women to appear on their shows?  And I wonder how many other women have had the same experience I did with him? How many women have not been invited back to his show simply because they won’t sleep with him?

I wonder too what our next steps should be? My assistant who sat with me at the table when I was propositioned by this host, remembers the conversation well. But my gut tells me we will need to gather a few other women who have shared a similar experience in order for his CEO to take this seriously. With two elections coming up this year the host will have many opportunities to prey on women candidates. I hope my words will stop him from abusing his power. So I shout them and warn women to be careful – avoid lunching with the host of a talk show!  If you have experienced the same situation, and know whom I am writing about, please contact me – sarah@sarahthomson.ca. We will protect your identity. 

And I warn him: we are coming. We aren’t rushing, but we are slowly gathering our facts and we won’t let up.  Do the right thing, and step down from your job.

Guilty men fear the truth

Finally women are coming out on sexual assault, and shining a spotlight on men who use their positions of power to exploit women. But, as with all change, there are people who don’t like this new world. They scream that it isn’t fair, that men in positions of power should continue to be protected, and the women who accuse them should be scrutinized. They ignore the flaws in the democratic system that allow the media to shame women into silence.  Studies show that 80 percent of sexual assaults are not reported, in most cases it is because women don’t want to face the shame and humiliation society hurls at them. Protecting these women is the first step toward moving our society forward.

Last week. when two women came forward to charge Patrick Brown with sexual misconduct, reporter Christie Blatchford, master of spin, came out ranting that the two women should have faced the media “because fundamental to a democracy is… the right to face your accuser and make full answer in defence.”  She didn’t explain why she believes that facing the accuser and defending yourself has to be done on a public stage for the media. Nor did she admit that it is the media that so often distorts the truth.  Finally our society is starting to realize that this shaming makes innocent victims suffer in silence rather than come forward. Exposing the accuser to ridicule and shame, to the spin that media personalities want to weave around them isn’t democratic – it’s archaic.

Make no mistake, Patrick Brown will face his accusers and he’ll get a chance to defend himself if he wants that. Every accuser puts herself at risk of being sued. Blatchford ignores this and laments that Brown has already been tried in a court of public opinion – she forgets it is the same court that has tried and hung so many women who sought justice. Take for instance, Monica Lewinsky – when it finally came out that she was telling the truth, the media refused to admit their own responsibility over the damage they had caused to her reputation.  Nobody paid a penalty but her, and the friends and staff who protected President Clinton walked away unscathed.  The media personalities who were directly to blame for damaging her reputation never had to be accountable.  They didn’t care what they had done, and they didn’t apologize.

Democracy isn’t perfect. It’s a constantly changing idea, a moving target that social change tries to improve. It is flawed. It allows people to hold positions of power over others, and if this power is held by someone who abuses it, people get hurt. It isn’t just men in power who cause harm, there are women like Blatchford who have a pulpit but no sense of responsibility, and they use their words to damage others. What she does too often isn’t reporting, or journalism… it’s public shaming.

Today our society is trying to make up for the decades of shame and public humiliation forced on women who reported sexual assault. Blatchford claims she is worried that all men in positions of power will become easy targets. And I worry too. I worry that the gutter style media is the very noose that will hang innocent men. 

Democracy is founded on the desire for fairness –  and it is this desire for fairness that is guiding the social changes we are seeing today. The far right accuses women of claiming victimhood, but today women have gone far beyond being victims. Women are angry, they don’t forget – they want to even the playing field.  If men in leadership are to be safe from false accusations, it will be up to the media to become more accountable for our role in shaping public opinion.

The two women who reported Patrick Brown have inspired other women. But what I find inspiring about them is the very thing Blatchford can’t stand — they have shown  women a path to reporting sexual misconduct that doesn’t involve being publicly identified, humiliated and shamed. I believe these two women have opened the floodgates, and the sad fact is that there are few women over 40 who don’t have a story, or two, to tell of men who abused their position of power.

I remember a time in 2010 when I was running for Mayor of Toronto and was on a show with the other top four candidates.  The show helped my numbers in the polls, so the next time I saw the host I asked if I might get on his show again. Always kind and friendly, he suggested we meet over lunch to discuss.  My assistant and I met him at Grano’s on Yonge Street, and the three of us ordered our lunch. Not five minutes in he asked me if I would have sex with him. My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table. I politely told the host that I loved my husband and would never do that. I then excused myself, went to the washroom and called my campaign manager. My manager was at first angry that I was alone with a talk show host, but when I explained that my assistant was actually sitting there with us and had heard the entire thing, his anger turned to shock. He advised me that if I didn’t want to “take one for the team,” then I should excuse myself and leave.  I followed his instruction, and later asked my EA what he and the host had talked about while I was in the washroom. He told me he questioned the talk show host to see if asking directly for sex actually worked for him. The host said that it worked 50 percent of the time.  Needless to say, I never got on his show again. His refusal to have me on his show simply because I wouldn’t have sex with him, made it harder to compete with the men I was running against who appeared on his show several times. 

And now, eight years later, I question if I should have spoken up. By keeping silent, have I allowed him to sexually prey on other women? If you are a woman and have experienced a talk show host who used a similar line on you, please reach out to me (sarah@sarahthomson.ca). Let’s talk. Your identity will be protected.  

As the publisher of Women’s Post, I believe there should be a way for women to report sexual misconduct without having to face shame and humiliation, and without having to drag men through the court of public opinion.  The world is changing,  you can fight the change or you can embrace it and try to make the world just a little more balanced for all.

But be careful of the likes of Christie Blatchford — she is the kind of person who will invite you to a party at her house and act like your friend. But, years later, when everyone is accusing you of lying and kicking you, she’ll sneak in a few kicks just to fit in with the guys – and then later, when  the truth comes out, she’ll hope that you didn’t notice how many times she kicked you. I noticed.

 

 

Doug Ford: King of cover up

Today, the worst candidate I can think of for leadership of the Ontario PC party – Doug Ford – has announced he is running. And I realize now why he didn’t come rushing to Patrick Brown’s side to defend him. Doug Ford is an overly ambitious man who would use his brother’s coffin to vault himself into the limelight.  Harsh words, but never have any truer words been written about the man.

Let me tell you about some of the secrets I’ve learned that happened in 2013, when I came out on Mayor Rob Ford’s drug induced grope.  Apparently, when the news hit social media, Doug Ford immediately started making phone calls to his “buddies” in the press. His strategy was to control and manipulate public opinion. He fed the press questions that cast doubt on me, he pulled the shadiest councillors he could find (from Vaughn) to twist the narrative, and finally he went on the Fords Newstalk 1010 radio show and made me out to be just another “crazy” woman.  Doug Ford knew that taking things out of context, and controlling the court of public opinion was the only way he could hide the truth. And for a while he managed to do it. 

But hiding the truth is a bit like trying to hold water in a broken bucket – it eventually leaks out. 

Doug succeeded in manipulating the public and hiding the truth about his brother and  his friends in the media made quick work of degrading me and making me out to be an opportunist.  They questioned my intentions and Newstalk 1010 in particular did some nasty public shaming. But that came to an end pretty quickly when the truth about Mayor Ford’s drug use finally came out.  That was when Doug Ford began claiming that he didn’t know anything about his brother’s drug use. By then most of the media realized they’d been used as his pawns. The Ford’s show on Newstalk1010 was cancelled and their power over the media went spiralling.  

When I learned about Mayor Ford’s drug dependency and the demons he was fighting, I forgave the Mayor. But I will never forgive Doug Ford for using his position of power to influence the media to demean and humiliate me.  I wonder how many women will actually support a man who demonstrated that he didn’t care about sexual assault, or that his brother was a drug addict?

I’ve always believed that Doug Ford’s lies put more stress on his brother than the truth ever did. Instead of encouraging the Mayor to tell the truth, I wonder if Doug counselled him to deny it?  When I think of the weeks that Mayor Ford had to carry the lie, and the pressure it must have put on him, I don’t understand how Doug couldn’t see what it was doing to him.

And make no mistake, there was a cost. Mayor Ford paid it. I paid it. But Doug Ford walked away relatively unscathed.  It is men like Doug Ford, men who abuse their power to twist and distort the truth, who need to be held accountable. He is a man so desperate for power he’s now decided that instead of running for mayor of Toronto, he’ll run for leadership of the Ontario PC party. 

The #MeToo campaign and #TimesUp campaign are a sign the world is changing, and women are no longer staying silent about corrupt men who abuse their power. It won’t be an easy road for men like Doug Ford.

Doug Ford is an example of a man who worked to hide sexual assault, drug use, and anything that might hinder his future ambitions. The world he once thrived in is changing and women are coming together to speak out.  Here at the Women’s Post we encourage women to step forward. To tell their story. If you have suffered, like I did, from the actions of Doug Ford please reach out to me. Let’s talk. Your identity will be protected.