While the report of the groping incident was first published on a British Columbian community newspaper, the allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had inappropriately groped a young reporter back in a music festival only came to light 18 years later. This incident occurred before Trudeau stepped into the politics field and was still working a humble job as a math teacher in Vancouver. The woman believed to be the anonymous reporter has not permitted the media to publish her identity, as she wishes to stay anonymous.
The incident undoubtedly shocked the majority of the public, as Trudeau has been an open advocate against sexual assault throughout his time being a politician. In 2014, Trudeau suspended two members of the Liberal Caucus, Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews, after accusations of sexual misconduct came to surface. Moreover, he has established feminism and gender equality as an integral part of his political campaign, including hiring an equal amount of men and women in Canada’s cabinet. “We shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist’,” Trudeau stated in a January 2016 World Economic Forum in Switzerland. “Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want.”
“Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently.”
Thus when Trudeau came forward to apologize, his response was genuine, insightful and as mature as it should be. “I am confident that I did not act inappropriately, but part of this awakening that we’re having as a society… is that it’s not just one side of the story that matters, that the same interactions can be experienced very differently from one person to the next and I am not going to speak for the woman… I’m responsible for my side of the interaction, which certainly, as I said, I don’t feel was in any way untoward,” Mr. Trudeau stated, addressing the news reporters. “But at the same time, this lesson that we are learning – and I’ll be blunt about it – often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently.” Trudeau reportedly was unaware that the woman was on duty for her newspaper and said it could have gone a lot differently if he had known so.
This, compared to countless other ‘apologies’ towards accusations of sexual exploitation delivered by men in the public eye has been exceedingly more sincere than the others. Take one for example, Casey Affleck, who was sued by two women in separate lawsuits for a total of 4.25 million dollars, after Affleck allegedly ” crawled into bed with [one of them] without her consent while she was asleep.” Affleck pressured the second woman to stay in his hotel room and “violently grabbed [her] arm in an effort to intimidate her into staying” when she refused. After all this, Affleck denied the allegations and even went on to win an Oscar and Golden Globe for his work on Manchester By the Sea.
None of this is to say that the allegations against Trudeau are invalid. They are very valid, but what’s also important is how Trudeau decides to respond to the allegations by putting himself in the survivor’s shoes, rather than blindly denying everything in order to protect his reputation and career. What Trudeau said is true – sometimes the man thinks his actions are appropriate and welcomed by the woman, although on the other side, the woman may experience or feel the opposite. In addition, sometimes miscommunication is to blame and in this case, it is Trudeau’s fault for not understanding the context and situation the woman was in during that incident.