Within weeks of Bill Cosby's sexual assault scandal coming to light, a parallel story of abuse and assault at the hands of former CBC broadcasting personality Jian Ghomeshi broke. Both stories were inescapble during late October and early November 2014, churning through every news outlet like wildfire. Think pieces clogged Twitter and Facebook, updates cropping up constantly on my evening radio programs. The tone of the coverage shifted easily between scorn for the violence and mourning for the obliterated legacy of the assailants. In both cases, the accused automatically deflected by pointing to the victims. Frequently deciding to bring their charges through the protection of anonymity, both Cosby and Ghomeshi would cite this as proof that the accusers merely wanted to ruin their careers rather than “stand beside” the invariably painful experience inflicted by their attackers.
Citation Needed was born from the wordless frustration of still living in a world where victim-blaming is still rampant, especially in the face of celebrity privilege. In the performance, I stood behind a spotlit wall in the Whittier Gallery and recited two alternating narratives: the fully-cited third-person narrative of the Jian Ghomeshi case from the point of view of the Canadian press, and the anonymous stories of the assault victims – notably lacking citations, instead capped with the echoing phrase, “Citation needed.” With the body removed from view, my performance became as anonymous as the women featured in the narrative, the timbre of the words and the harrowing nature of the story the chief focus.