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Social Science Sexual Abuse & Harassment

Had It Coming

What's Fair in the Age of #MeToo?

by (author) Robyn Doolittle

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Sexual Abuse & Harassment, Criminology, Law Enforcement
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
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“A decisive snapshot of this moment in history that considers where we were, and sets the stage for where we might go, and will no doubt be used to describe this moment long after we move on to a new normal.” —Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People
An illuminating, timely look at the changing landscape of sexual politics by the author of Crazy Town.

For nearly two years, Globe and Mail reporter Robyn Doolittle investigated how Canadian police handle sexual assault cases. Her findings were shocking: across the country, in big cities and small towns, the system was dismissing a high number of allegations as "unfounded." A police officer would simply view the claim as baseless and no investigation would follow. Of the 26,500 reported cases of sexual assault in 2015, only 1,400 resulted in convictions.

The response to Doolittle's groundbreaking Unfounded series was swift. Federal ministers immediately vowed to establish better oversight, training, and policies; Prime Minister Trudeau announced $100 million to combat gender-based violence; Statistics Canada began to collect and publish unfounded rates; and to date, about a third of the country's forces have pledged to review more than 10,000 sex-assault cases dating back to 2010.

Had It Coming picks up where the Unfounded series left off. Doolittle brings a personal voice to what has been a turning point for most women: the #MeToo movement and its aftermath. The world is now increasingly aware of the pervasiveness of rape culture in which powerful men got away with sexual assault and harassment for years: from Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, and Matt Lauer, to Charlie Rose and Jian Ghomeshi. But Doolittle looks beyond specific cases to the big picture. The issue of "consent" figures largely: not only is the public confused about what it means, but an astounding number of police officers and judges do not understand Canadian consent law. The brain's reaction to trauma and how it affects memory is also crucial to understanding victim statements. Surprisingly, Canada has the most progressive sexual assault laws in the developed world, yet the system is failing victims at every stage.

Had It Coming is not a diatribe or manifesto, but a nuanced and informed look at how attitudes around sexual behaviour have changed and still need to change.

About the author


  • Nominated, Heritage Toronto Award - Historical Writing: Book
  • Short-listed, RBC Taylor Prize

Contributor Notes

ROBYN DOOLITTLE is a Globe and Mail investigative journalist. Her reporting on Mayor Rob Ford for the Toronto Star made headlines around the world, won the Michener Award for public service journalism, and her number-one bestselling book on the topic, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, earned her the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Her Unfounded series, which investigated how police services handle sexual assault cases, was one of the most viewed and read stories in the Globe's modern history. She was named Journalist of the Year in 2017 by the Canadian Centre for Journalism.

Excerpt: Had It Coming: What's Fair in the Age of #MeToo? (by (author) Robyn Doolittle)


In writing a book about #MeToo, I could have gone two ways.
The first, the easy route, would have been to lean into my own frustrations, anger, and indignation at the world, developed during thirty-four years of living as a human female. I could have collected those grievances—all those times that a man took credit for my work or a date pushed too far, or that time in a taxi when I barely escaped from the driver. I could have harnessed all the memories of men telling me to “Smile!,” of my ideas not being taken seriously on account of my gen- der, of having my butt patted on the street or on public transit or at a bar. And I could have rolled it all in with the gnawing reality that in 2019 women continue to earn less for the same work as men, represent only a quarter of House of Commons seats, and—as of 2018—total exactly one CEO among the top hundred most influential companies in Canada. That situation doesn’t even begin to approach the level of inequality for women of colour or for women in countries where by law they’re second-class citizens, where they’re under the thumb of male guardians, where their access to education is limited, where they’re routinely subjected to sexual violence as part of domestic life, or civil strife, or war. And then I could have taken that Molotov cocktail of resentment, lit it on fire, and lobbed it into the world, screaming, “Burn it all down!” That’s a book that would have earned me a lot of love on Twitter. It would have been simple to talk about and promote. The fury that many women are experiencing and voicing right now is real and warranted, and writing 70,000 words about why would have been cathartic.
But that is not the book I’ve written.
At the time I started researching this book, I’d already spent more than two years immersed in many of these issues. I’m a journalist with The Globe and Mail and in the summer of 2015, I began investigating how police handle sexual assault allegations. As part of that research, I interviewed well over a hundred people connected to the criminal justice system—sexual assault complainants, police officers, lawyers, judges, sexual assault nurses, academics, activists, and front-line support workers. I’d read through thousands of pages of court transcripts and police files. Building on what I’d learned through that reporting, I turned my mind to the #MeToo movement. I thought I’d have firm opinions on everything related to the movement, but the more I read, the more I pushed myself beyond the confines of like-minded social media silos, the more open conversations I had with those in my social and business circles, the more I realized that that approach wasn’t going to cut it. It’s been done. I came to see that a more useful and honest book about #MeToo wouldn’t shy away from the tough questions that the movement has raised.
Unfortunately, as a culture we aren’t very good at having nuanced, complicated discussions. The public space is not a safe venue to talk about controversial subjects. Social media and call-out culture—the tendency to aggressively shame and reprimand people for real or perceived missteps—has seen to that. Instead, people are talking it out in private, with friends they trust not to rip them apart on Twitter. My goal with this book is to bring those discussions into the open.
At this extraordinary moment of change in how men and women interact, the path forward isn’t simple. It’s important, I believe, to uncover and evaluate the facts, to expose outdated myths that pervade institutions, and to bring rigour, openness, and compassion in equal measure to this very important conversation. I’ve come to embrace the nuance and messiness that comes with those tough conversations. So rather than lighting a match to that oily rag, with this book I’ve tried to make the case for progress as well as healthy debate.


I was eighteen when police in Eagle, Colorado, arrested Kobe Bryant on accusations that he’d raped a woman in a hotel room. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but I do remember my first thought upon learning the news: “Well, what did she expect going to a hotel room with an NBA player?”
The woman was nineteen, barely a year older than I was at the time. She’d been working the front desk at a mountain lodge when Bryant checked in on June 30, 2003. The twenty-four-year-old basketball all-star was in the area for knee surgery. He arrived late with a small entourage and asked the woman to show him around the facilities. After the tour, she escorted Bryant back to his room. He invited her in. They chatted for a bit. Flirted. And when he kissed her, she kissed him back. It was flattering, she later told police, that the famous Los Angeles Laker seemed interested in her. She was okay with the kissing.
But then Bryant started to grope and fondle her. The teenager moved towards the door, but Bryant blocked her path. “I try and walk to the side, and he would walk with me,” she told police. That’s when, she alleged, the six-foot-six shooting guard put his hands around her throat and squeezed—not hard enough to close her windpipe, but hard enough to make it clear that he was in control. Bryant removed his pants. He bent her over a chair. When he removed the teenager’s underwear, she again protested, but he ignored her. “Every time I said ‘no’ he tightened his hold around me,” she told police.
The woman told police that Bryant proceeded to rape her. He did so with one hand gripping her throat while she wept. When she was eventually able to leave, Bryant’s T-shirt was stained with her blood. Almost immediately, the woman bumped into a friend, the hotel bellman. She tearfully recounted that Bryant had choked and raped her. A sexual assault examination performed fifteen hours later revealed two one-centimetre lacerations and several smaller tears in her vaginal region. The injuries were “consistent with penetrating genital trauma.” Officials also documented a bruise on her jaw.
Bryant initially lied to investigators and said he’d never had sex with the teenager, but he changed his story after police indicated that they had physical evidence from the rape kit. In his new version of events, Bryant admitted that they’d had sex, but he claimed it was consensual—and in fact, she had been the one to initiate it. The ensuing media coverage trumpeted Bryant’s athletic accolades, questioned the complainant’s character, and minimized the severity of the allegations by sprinkling basketball references throughout stories that were otherwise about rape. “On the hardwood, he often controls the court. But facing allegations of felony sexual assault by an unnamed nineteen-year-old woman, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant may find himself on another court where three-point plays don’t count,” NBC News reported after the arrest. The headline in the Los Angeles Times reassured fans that they had reason to doubt their star’s accuser: “Alleged victim in Bryant case is a 19-year-old graduate of local high school who is said to be fun-loving, outgoing and emotional.” The Associated Press story painted a portrait of a man deserving of compas- sion: “Sitting not far from the court, where everything comes so naturally to him, Kobe Bryant found it tough just to speak. After waiting several seconds to gather himself, the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard choked back tears and his voice quivered. ‘I’m innocent.’”

Editorial Reviews

Nominated for the 2021 Heritage Toronto Book Awards
One of CBC's “21 books by Canadian women to read right now”

Praise for Had It Coming:

“Doolittle injects herself into the narrative as she interviews experts. The book can be best read as a useful primer on the myths still embedded in how sexual assault is treated within the courts and culture . . .”

“[A]n unflinching look at the #MeToo era. . . . a decisive snapshot of this moment in history that considers where we were, and sets the stage for where we might go, and will no doubt be used to describe this moment long after we’ve moved on to a new normal.” Zoe Whittall, award-winning author of The Best Kind of People

Had It Coming is an in-depth look at how attitudes around sexual harassment and assault are changing in the #MeToo era.”

"Doolittle reveals myriad social, cultural, and psychological complexities surrounding sexual assault: for example, about the definition of consent and the line between an ethical violation and a legal one when it comes to consent . . . A balanced consideration of a timely issue."

“[Doolittle’s] analysis of a complex and difficult subject is colourful and prismatic . . . She uses a conversational, approachable tone to make the book relatable to people on both sides of the ‘he said, she said’ fence . . . her central message [is] compelling . . .”
Literary Review of Canada

“[A] nuanced, open-minded, de-politicized discussion of our post-#MeToo world.”

“Doolittle writes with lucidity and heart, directly addressing the challenges posed by a book that delves onto a topic that often leads to knee-jerk reactions and polarizing debates. Instead of capitulating to these impulses, she chooses to explore the questions of the moment with the nuance and detail they deserve . . . A must-read for all Canadians.”
Quill & Quire

“. . . rigorous reportage and unflinching. . . . [a] vital read.”
—Now Toronto

“[I]ncisive, impeccably researched, and deeply honest.”
The Tyee
Had It Coming should be mandatory reading in high school health classes to accompany lessons about consent to speed up a much-needed cultural shift in how sexual assault cases are judged. . . . it’s an important read that forces readers to question their knee-jerk reactions affiliated with #MeToo—and makes them think twice before typing a tweet.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press

“Its style straightforward and investigative, the book’s analysis is accessible, and the facts it delivers stand to force the interrogation of individuals’ blind spots. Had It Coming is an important text about how North American cultures handle sexual assault; it pushes progress toward durable social changes.”
Foreword Reviews

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